Clark Brewster’s dairy farming parents had only eighth-grade educations, but they earned doctorates in work ethic.
Those values rubbed off on the young Brewster, who rose at 5 in the morning to milk cows before school.
“Your day off, you only had to work eight hours,” he said of the Sabbath.
Once while returning from an auction in Michigan, where the family lived, his father issued 7-year-old Clark a curious ultimatum.
“He said, ‘You have two choices in this world,’ ” Brewster said. “ ‘You can be an auctioneer or you can be a lawyer.’ We drove for about a mile and he said, ‘What is it going to be?’ I said, ‘I think I’ll be the lawyer.’ ”
Brewster chose wisely.
Closing in on four decades in the business, the Tulsa trial lawyer has seen countless folks in crisis make a beeline to his services. Advocating for the privileged, as well as the unpolished, he has represented everyone from a penis-pumping judge and a swastika-tattooed former debutante to a porn star who sued the president of the United States.
“I really kind of developed my own style,” said Brewster, 61. “It’s an easy style to develop and that is to be incredibly prepared. Then, I have this premise that you just have to love your client. If you don’t like this client, then you need a different lawyer. That’s important.
“Every case is a mystery. It’s like reading a novel. I just don’t get tired of that. None of our cases are really mundane.”
At Brewster and DeAngelis, his law office home since 1982, most of what walks through the door is complex civil litigation, particularly as it relates to wrongful death or the catastrophically injured. He estimates less than 10% of the workload involves criminal defense, but that’s where his marquee burns brightest.
Because of that niche, many people in big trouble seek him.
“If somebody needs representation and I really feel like it wouldn’t make a difference if it was me or somebody else, I will talk them out of retaining us,” Brewster said. “But if I say, if I don’t take this case, this guy is going to have a really bad ending or if I don’t take this case, I’ll be upset with myself in some way and I can make a difference, I will do that.”
He said he’s most proud of the cases that nobody knows about.
“In most of my higher-profile cases, money is not an issue,” he said. “… In a criminal case, I tell them I have two fees, and the two fees are free or a whole lot. I’ll say, in your instance, it’s a whole lot.
“The effort is going to be the same. I just want to help … This firm has been successful, and financial issues aren’t what drive our decisions.”
Of course, his willingness to defend those deemed indefensible by some invites criticism.
Brewster was labeled a hater of AfricanAmericans when he, implored by an impassioned letter from the defendant’s mother, represented Good Friday shooter Jacob England. A man listed as white in court documents, England was convicted in the shootings — three fatal — of five black men at random in 2012.
Folks blamed Brewster for the demise of courtroom decorum in his defense of former Creek County District Judge Donald Thompson, convicted 13 years ago of indecent exposure after jurors heard testimony that he masturbated with a penis pump during trials. Many also cringed at Brewster’s legal backing of Carol Howe, an ex-Tulsa debutante who once worked as a federal informant in a white-separatist compound known as Elohim City.
A federal jury acquitted her of bomb threat and conspiracy charges in 1997.
More recently, Brewster lent his legal expertise to Robert Bates. In 2016, jurors recommended the maximum sentence of four years in prison after finding Bates, a 74-year-old white man, guilty of second-degree manslaughter for mistaking his revolver for his Taser and shooting Eric Harris, who was black, while serving as a Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office reserve deputy.
“Someone is charged with a crime,” Brewster said. “I meet with them, and I want to cause resolution in a way that’s best for him.
“I want to be true to what I believe in, but at the same time, you are an advocate and trying to help somebody. That doesn’t mean that I endorse their beliefs or endorse their actions.”
One person Brewster thought he would never defend was James Hogue.
Less than a year after the Tulsa County district judge had rendered what Brewster called a “terrible” decision in court against him, Hogue was accused of bilking an elderly widow out of her estate in the 1990s. As the media glare on Hogue intensified and criminal charges loomed, Brewster called him out of the blue.
“I said, ‘Hey, judge, this is Clark Brewster,’ ” the attorney said. “ ‘I just want to tell you that I’m thinking about you. How are you doing?
“He said, ‘Well, I’m in my garage right now, and I’m thinking about killing myself.’ ”
Brewster asked Hogue, who ended up resigning, to come to his office, where he was told the lawyer would represent him for free. Brewster said he spent about $100,000 of the firm’s money on experts at the monthlong jury trial, during which Hogue occupied himself by playing Cryptoquotes.
As the proceedings dragged on, Brewster said an overwhelming sense of dread hounded Hogue, who, along with his wife, Kathleen, was charged with 22 counts of embezzlement and one count of caretaker abuse. At the trial’s conclusion, the attorney asked his client to do him one favor — show gratitude to his legal team.
Kathleen Hogue, represented by a different attorney, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to prison in 1998. James was acquitted of all charges.
“He puts his arm around me,” Brewster said of James Hogue at the post-trial scene. “The guy’s not touchy-feely. And he said, ‘In my lowest moment of my life, there was one person who stood up for me, and it’s Clark Brewster.’ ”
Former Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris and his office went toe-to-toe with Brewster for parts of three decades.
“What I recognized and appreciated about Clark Brewster was when you take him on, you better have your ducks in a row because he is a very good communicator with people,” said Harris, DA from 1998-2014. “At the jury trial level, it’s really about effective communication. He’s a great communicator.
“… When you faced him in the courtroom, it was game on.”
Harris recalled Brewster’s defense of England and the toll those crimes took on Tulsa. Alvin Watts also was convicted in the triple homicide.
“That really devastated this community, especially the black community, and rightfully so,” Harris said. “They’re out marauding around killing people indiscriminately because they’re black.
“… To take on a criminal defendant like that, it takes a lot.”
Throwing in Hogue as another example, Harris added, “You’ve got to respect somebody that’s going to jump in the fray and represent somebody like that. It just goes to show you, the American system of justice and rule of law works best when you have passionate opponents on either side of an issue.”
Brewster often is accused of being a publicity hound, but he said he turns down media about 80% of the time.
“The only time I want to do it is if I need to defend my client in the court of public opinion,” he said. “People say, ‘Don’t stand between him and a camera.’ Not true. I get called constantly, and I say there’s no need for us to be doing that.”
Two current high-profile clients — former University of Oklahoma President David Boren and adult film actress Stormy Daniels — figure to demand much of his attention in the coming months. A sexual misconduct investigation has been lodged against Boren.
Among the legal matters facing Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, is an appeal of a defamation suit filed against President Donald Trump for libel and slander. Daniels has said she and Trump had an affair in 2006 after he married first lady Melania Trump and she gave birth to their son, Barron.
Brewster, a thoroughbred horse owner-breeder who has a ranch in Creek County, came highly recommended from a mutual friend in the horse industry, said Daniels, who has been involved in equestrian competitions since age 11.
“One of my cases is a big horse case, so when it came time to pursue new representation, his name was at the top of my list,” she said. “I was very pleased that he was willing to take a call from me.
“It was a very daunting pile of paperwork. A lot of it was left in a hot mess by my previous attorney. (Brewster) was like, ‘I’ve got to look through this and I’ll get back to you tomorrow.’ But he called back the next day, and I met with him again.”
Brewster has been taken with the personality of Daniels, whom he brought on as a client this year.
“She’s bright. She’s witty, funny,” he said. “She’s doing stand-up comedy. She’s very talented.
“I’ve come to know Stormy. She’s smart. She’s who I’d like to represent.”
Home on the range
Away from the bustle of the courtroom, Brewster finds solace in nature.
Romping on his 3,600-acre ranch are thoroughbreds, cutting horses and close to 1,000 head of cattle. The farm raises its own barley, oats, corn and wheat and grinds its own feed.
“Both my wife (Debbie) and I experienced a great desire to have this be a part of our lives,” Brewster said. “It really is a spectacular place. I guess it really wouldn’t make a difference if it was 40 acres. We would think the same. We just love the earth. We love animals.”
And Brewster is loving life.
“I don’t care how much money you have, how tall and good-looking and healthy you are, it’s irrelevant to the equation of happiness,” he said. “And I’m incredibly happy.
“People will tell you, I walk in and it’s no act. I’m happy as hell. Every day. Even when things are down, I think it’s only a matter of time before we’re back where we need to be.”
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