Judge Who Sent 500+ Texts During Murder Trial Might Lose Her Job

Chief justice of Oklahoma's top court recommends Traci Soderstrom's removal
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 12, 2023 3:00 AM CDT
Judge Who Sent 500+ Texts During Murder Trial Might Lose Her Job
In this image from security camera video, Lincoln County District Judge Traci Soderstrom looks at her cellphone during a murder trial, June 12, 2023, at the Lincoln County District Court in Chandler, Okla.   (Lincoln County District Court/The Oklahoman via AP, File)

A new Oklahoma judge could lose her job for sending more than 500 texts to her bailiff during a murder trial, including messages mocking the prosecutor, praising the defense attorney, and calling a key witness a liar. The chief justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court recommended the removal of Lincoln County District Judge Traci Soderstrom in a court filing Tuesday following an investigation by the state's Council on Judicial Complaints, the AP reports. Soderstrom has been under scrutiny since July after she was caught on camera scrolling through social media and texting during the trial of a man accused in the fatal beating of a 2-year-old.

Soderstrom, who was sworn in on Jan. 9 after being elected in November to a four-year term ending in January 2027, was suspended with pay pending the outcome of a hearing by the Court on the Judiciary, which will determine whether to remove her from the bench. "The pattern of conduct demonstrates Respondent's (Soderstrom's) gross neglect of duty, gross partiality and oppression," Chief Justice John Kane IV wrote. "The conduct further demonstrates Respondent's (Soderstrom's) lack of temperament to serve as a judge." When questioned by the Council on Judicial Complaints, Soderstrom said her texting "probably could have waited" rather than realizing the comments should never have been made. She said she thought, "oh, that's funny. Move on."

The judge's texts included saying the prosecutor was "sweating through his coat" during questioning of potential jurors and asking "why does he have baby hands?" according to Kane's petition. The texts described the defense attorney as "awesome" and asked "can I clap for her?" during the defense attorney's opening arguments. Soderstrom also texted a laughing emoji icon to the bailiff, who had "made a crass and demeaning reference to the prosecuting attorneys' genitals," Kane wrote. Soderstrom's texts also included comments questioning whether a juror was wearing a wig, if a witness has teeth and calling a police officer who testified, "pretty," adding, "I could look at him all day."

(More Oklahoma stories.)

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