Newest U.S. district judge in Tulsa takes oath
BY DAVID HARPER World Staff Writer
Saturday, December 29, 2012
12/29/12 at 7:27 AM
John Dowdell's long wait ended on Friday.
Dowdell took an oath that made him the newest district judge with the Tulsa-based Northern District of Oklahoma federal court, officially filling a vacancy on the bench that had existed for about three years.
U.S. Chief District Judge Gregory Frizzell said the opportunity to swear in Dowdell was "truly a pleasure and a relief."
He was nominated for the judicial post in February but was not confirmed by the U.S. Senate until Dec. 11.
Dowdell's interest in the job was sparked in October 2008 when he was told that U.S. District Judge Terence Kern was considering shifting to senior status - partially retiring - at some point after the presidential election that would be held the following month, he said Friday.
But the fuse that was ignited that day must not have been the best money could buy, he said, because it only smoldered for years.
Ignition occurred when President Barack Obama nominated Dowdell for the judicial post this February, but the flame dimmed in the haze of presidential election-year politics.
Dowdell's nomination was not confirmed by the U.S. Senate until Dec. 11.
The uncertain, lengthy and public process was stressful, Dowdell told those assembled in the ceremonial courtroom at the Page Belcher Federal Building in downtown Tulsa on Friday.
He said he bonded with Danny Williams Sr., who also waited for months before becoming the U.S. Attorney for Oklahoma's Northern District in August, and Western District of Oklahoma U.S. Magistrate Robert Bacharach, who is still waiting to be confirmed for a spot with the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Dowdell told Bacharach, who was at Friday's ceremony, that he has "every confidence" that Bacharach will be confirmed in the first quarter of 2013.
But Friday was Dowdell's day to open a new chapter in his professional life after nearly 30 years with the Tulsa firm of Norman Wohlgemuth Chandler & Dowdell.
Dowdell expressed his gratitude to his family, friends and peers who helped him ascend to a federal district judgeship as well as to Obama and Oklahoma's senators.
He said Sens. Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn, both Republicans, have been "remarkably gracious" during the confirmation process.
"It's been an honor to get to know them," Dowdell said.
U.S. District Judge James Payne told Dowdell he should get used to his first name now being supplanted by the word "judge."
Frizzell, speaking on behalf of the other Northern District judges, said, "We look forward to serving with you as your colleagues on this bench for years to come."
Kern said Dowdell will be "a fabulous addition to this bench" and remarked on the lengthy wait to fill the spot.
"It's been a long pregnancy," Kern said.
David Harper 918-581-8359
With his family next to him, John Dowdell (left) takes the oath of office as a federal district judge, administered by U.S. Chief District Judge Gregory Frizzell, at the Page Belcher Federal Building in Tulsa on Friday. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World