There’s a new judge in town.

Special Judge Bill Layden Jr. was officially sworn in this morning in the Layden Courtroom of the Pittsburg County Courthouse.

The small courtroom on the second floor of the courthouse was packed with people as Layden was sworn in by District Judge Thomas Bartheld.

Although he had initially planned to hold the swearing in ceremony in his own courtroom, Bartheld said, “I thought, Judge Layden, Layden courtroom — this is the right place for this, because this will be his courtroom.”

The courtroom was named for the new judge’s uncle, former District Judge Robert A. Layden, who was the district judge of Pittsburg and McIntosh counties for 20 years.

After thanking everyone who attended the ceremony, Judge Bill Layden said he looked forward to working with Bartheld and the other three judges in the two counties. “I’m kind of at a loss for words, which is a bad thing for a lawyer,” he said to general laughter. He likened his appointment to a small dog he’d seen once as a boy. The dog was chasing a car, Layden said, and as he watched he couldn’t help but wonder what the dog would do if he caught the car. He felt a little like that dog, he said.

“Now I’ve caught the opportunity, and I don’t know what I’m going to do.” Growing more serious, he said, “After 30 years (as an attorney), I’ve learned not to make promises, but I will make one: I’ll do my best.”

An attorney for 30 years, Layden was named to the newly-created second special judge’s post in mid December. The Oklahoma legislature authorized the position, with funding for it to come from the state court system.

“We’re ready to put him to work,” Bartheld said. “I believe he actually has a docket starting Wednesday.”

In addition to overseeing cases in Pittsburg and McIntosh counties, Layden will be responsible for setting up a drug court in the two counties. Drug courts are basically treatment programs overseen by the court system, according to the Oklahoma Criminal Justice Resource Center.

No two drug courts are exactly alike, since they are designed to fill the needs of their particular jurisdictions. Offenders who enter drug court are given absolute rules and standards they must meet. For instance, offenders are required to take drug or alcohol evaluations and are monitored by local agencies. If they successfully complete the tasks set forth in drug court, such as staying drug free for a specified number of years, they are considered a pass. If they don’t comply, a judge can administer sanctions, up to and including prison time, although drug courts in Oklahoma are considered to be tools to keep non-violent offenders out of prison and still modify their behavior through rehabilitation.

Contact Doug Russell at drussell@mcalesternews.com.

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