Trent England | July 7, 2020
District Attorney confused about the law?
Laura Austin Thomas is the District Attorney for Payne and Logan counties. In that position, she is responsible for prosecuting crimes. One might hope she has a basic understanding of the law, but her recent attempt to smear two members of the Pardon and Parole Board suggests otherwise.
Thomas opposes criminal justice reforms that try to reduce prison overcrowding and save money. She has dismissed reform efforts as “a very fun and nice and popular political soundbite.” In May, she launched an attack against Kelly Doyle and Adam Luck, two of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s recent appointees to the Pardon and Parole Board. Her allegation? Doyle and Luck are biased because of their work with the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), an organization that provides services to former inmates.
One mistake made by Thomas in her attacks is to repeatedly refer to CEO as a “company” when it is a nonprofit charity. She also implies that somehow Doyle or Luck might benefit if more people get out of prison. First, Luck is simply a board member for CEO—a volunteer who receives no compensation. Doyle is the group’s deputy executive director for Oklahoma and surrounding states. But while workers at nonprofits do get paid, the law prohibits such organizations from having shareholders or any other kind of profit-sharing (that’s what nonprofit means).
Far from being unusual appointments to the Board, state law actually requires that “[a]t least two members of the Pardon and Parole Board shall have five (5) years of training or experience in mental health services, substance abuse services, or social work.” The Legislature made this change in 2018 to ensure that people just like Doyle and Luck are on the Board.
Finally, if Thomas really cares about conflicts of interest in the criminal justice system, as the old saw goes: Physician, heal thyself. It is district attorneys, along with other government agencies, that currently benefit from the broken status quo, as I describe here.
David and Ann Brown Distinguished Fellow
Trent England is the David and Ann Brown Distinguished Fellow at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, where he previously served as executive vice president. He is also the founder and executive director of Save Our States, which educates Americans about the importance of the Electoral College. England is a producer of the feature-length documentary “Safeguard: An Electoral College Story.” He has appeared three times on Fox & Friends and is a frequent guest on media programs from coast to coast. He is the author of Why We Must Defend the Electoral College and a contributor to The Heritage Guide to the Constitution and One Nation Under Arrest: How Crazy Laws, Rogue Prosecutors, and Activist Judges Threaten Your Liberty. His writing has also appeared in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Washington Times, Hillsdale College's Imprimis speech digest, and other publications. Trent formerly hosted morning drive-time radio in Oklahoma City and has filled for various radio hosts including Ben Shapiro. A former legal policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation, he holds a law degree from The George Mason University School of Law and a bachelor of arts in government from Claremont McKenna College.