In The Know: State Supreme Court reverses J&J opioid ruling | Reparations discussion in Oklahoma’s oldest Black town | More

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Some stories included here are behind paywall or require subscription. OK Policy encourages the support of Oklahoma’s state and local media, which are vital to an informed citizenry. Subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

NOTE: In The Know will be on hiatus Thursday, Nov. 11, while OK Policy offices are closed in honor of Veterans Day.

Oklahoma News

‘Too far’: Oklahoma Supreme Court reverses $465 million Johnson & Johnson opioid decision: In a 5-1 decision from the Oklahoma Supreme Court filed Monday, justices reversed the $465 million verdict against Johnson & Johnson in the state’s high-profile 2019 opioid trial. The court’s majority opinion held that Cleveland County District Court Judge Thad Balkman “erred in finding J&J’s conduct created a public nuisance” and went “too far” in his order “creating and funding government programs designed to address social and health issues.” [NonDoc] The verdict in 2019 came in the first major lawsuit against opioid manufacturers to make it to trial. The state asked at the time for more than $17 billion, saying it would take years to undo the damage. On appeal, the state asked for $9.3 billion. [The Oklahoman] But because most public nuisance laws are state-specific, it is unclear how much impact the Oklahoma decision could ultimately have on cases elsewhere. The Oklahoma judges’ decision underscored their reading of their state’s law. [New York Times]

Why leaders of Oklahoma’s oldest Black town are pushing for reparations and revitalization: In Oklahoma’s oldest surviving all-Black town, local leaders have committed to a conversation about reparations that is intertwined with efforts to revitalize the municipality. Located about 45 miles from Tulsa, Tullahassee made national news this summer when Mayor Keisha Currin, a fourth-generation town resident, pledged to pay reparations for slavery to some locals. Currin and City Manager Cymone Davis say they have no immediate plans for how the town could pay reparations, but they expect a deep and lengthy conversation on the issue. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

2 Ex-Officers Who Used Tasers on a Man Over 50 Times Are Convicted of Murder: Two former Wilson, Oklahoma police officers were convicted on Friday of second-degree murder for using their Tasers a total of more than 50 times on an unarmed man who later died in 2019, according to court records. The case brought further scrutiny to the use of Tasers by law enforcement officers. Supporters say the devices are a practical alternative to often-lethal firearms, but critics point out they have contributed to many fatalities. [New York Times]

Republican lawmaker hopes Stitt will ‘take Julius Jones off death row’: Kevin McDugle, one of the more conservative members of the State House, spoke exclusively to The Black Wall Street Times about Julius Jones and his desire to make changes to Oklahoma’s death penalty practices. “My belief is this,” McDugle said, “I don’t care who it is, we cannot put somebody to death if there is doubt.” [The Black Wall Street Times]

Oklahoma County Jail maintenance worker speaks with KFOR about detention center’s unsafe conditions: An Oklahoma County Detention Center maintenance worker contacted KFOR with concerns about what he calls unsafe working conditions. “We had a guy that got fired for voicing his opinion that our bosses were breaking policy by sending us into pods that are just filled with inmates and no detention officers in there to watch out for us,” he said. [KFOR]

Policing firm releases findings on Tulsa Police Department in community meetings: Tulsa Police Department partnered with CNA, a nationally accredited 21st century policing firm, to evaluate and make recommendations on the TPD’s formal and informal community policing efforts. [The Black Wall Street Times]

State Government News

The race for state treasurer heats up as former state senator announces his run: A former state senator who, up until recently, served as chairman of the Oklahoma Tax Commission, announced Tuesday he will run for state treasurer. Clark Jolley, 51, who resigned from the Tax Commission Nov. 1 after more than four years in that role, is the third Republican to vie for the open seat. [The Oklahoman]

Tribal Nations News

Tulsa City Council Tribal Relations Committee holds first meeting, vows to cooperate with local Indian nations: The inaugural meeting of the Tulsa City Council Tribal Relations Committee had a larger turnout than expected Tuesday, and Councilor Kara Joy McKee thinks she knows why. “That is one way I think the (city’s) amicus brief (in the McGirt case) shifted things, that all of my colleagues have expressed more interest in these issues, and we had seven councilors here today,” she said. [Tulsa World] McKee and the other councilors discussed how to involve tribal representation and whether or not a delegate from the mayor’s office would be appropriate for the committee. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Education News

Western Heights, Mannix Barnes lose lawsuit about state takeover: The Oklahoma State Department of Education’s takeover of Western Heights Public Schools and its suspension of controversial Superintendent Mannix Barnes was upheld today by Oklahoma County District Court Judge Aletia Timmons. [NonDoc]

  • Hofmeister calls for resignations as Western Heights legal challenge fails again [The Oklahoman]

General News

The Battle For Greenwood: What’s Next, or Is Greenwood Rising? (audio): This episode, “What’s Next, or Is Greenwood Rising?,” investigates the contentious relationship and agendas between the two Chambers of Commerce in Greenwood; the backstory on the land on which the Drillers Stadium resides and its impact on the economic growth of the community; and an effort to remove Highway I-244, which is divisive in many ways. [Focus: Black Oklahoma, in partnership with KOSU]

  • First Of Six Historical Greenwood District Boundary Markers Dedicated [The Oklahoma Eagle]
  • ‘Justice For Greenwood’ Seeks 107 Birthday Notes For Tulsa Race Massacre Survivor [The Oklahoma Eagle]

Family reunited in Tulsa after fleeing Afghanistan but separated by refugee screening process: In late August, the couple rushed to the Kabul airport with their 2-year-old daughter to be flown to the United States. As U.S. citizens, Kristy Afshar and her child were allowed to continue on to Tulsa, where she has relatives. But her husband Faramarz, an Afghan citizen, had to remain at a refugee camp at a U.S. military base. They reunited on Tuesday in Tulsa. [Tulsa World] Oklahoma Watch: Refugees’ arrival means balancing safety, resettlement [Oklahoma Watch via Tulsa World]

Poll: Most Oklahomans don’t want government in businesses’ vaccine decisions — or a protected class for unvaccinated people: A majority of Oklahomans don’t want the government to interfere with businesses through COVID-19 vaccine mandates or creation of a protected class to prevent discrimination against unvaccinated individuals, according to a CHS & Associates poll. “Oklahoma is a populist state and doesn’t like interference in employer-employee relations,” said Pat McFerron, president of the national polling and Republican political consulting firm based in Oklahoma City, said of the top takeaway from the survey. [Tulsa World]

Jewish Federation of Tulsa’s Kristallnacht remembrance highlights lessons for today’s America: The Jewish Federation of Tulsa held a virtual remembrance event to observe Tuesday’s 83rd anniversary of Kristallnacht, or “The Night of Broken Glass,” the Nazi pogrom against Jews on Nov. 9, 1938, seen as a precursor to the atrocities of the Holocaust. “Those who were not affected, the bystanders, turned their heads in the face of injustice and oppression,” said Nancy Pettus, the federation’s director of Holocaust education. “Those who might have spoken up are often muffled by fear, or sometimes indifference. “In hindsight, we clearly see the need for up-standers, whose powerful voices could have been used to disrupt this sound of silence.” [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma Local News

  • OKC City Council votes against adding wards [Journal Record]
  • OKC City Council votes no to transparency in redistricting, additional wards [OKC Free Press]
  • MAPS 4: Clara Luper civil rights museum gets $2 million as Freedom Center finds private funds [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“It is essential for us to share ideas with the tribes and ask them to help us shape what makes sense for this collaboration. It’s not us dictating to, or deciding for, or going off to do our own thing. It is a co-creation with the tribes and with the commission.”

-Tulsa City Councilor Kara Joy McKee, speaking about the formation of the Tulsa City Council Tribal Relations Committee [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day

4 in 5

More than four in five American Indian and Alaska Native women and men have experienced violence in their lifetime, and more than one in three experienced violence in the past year, according to a new report from an NIJ-funded study. [National Institute of Justice]

Policy Note

Tribal Nations and the United States: An Introduction: Developed by the National Congress of American Indians, this publication seeks to provide a basic overview of the history and underlying principles of tribal governance. The guide also provides introductory information about tribal governments and American Indian and Alaska Native people today. The purpose of the guide is to ensure that policy decision makers at the local, state, and federal level understand their relationship to tribal governments as part of the American family of governments. Additionally, this guide provides the information necessary for members of the public at large to understand and engage effectively with contemporary Indian Nations. [NCAI] | [Report]

Note: November is Native American Heritage Month, or as it is commonly referred to, American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month. The month is a time to celebrate rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people. 

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David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

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