Oklahoma, Traci Soderstrom, judge, texts, step down, resign

Oklahoma Judge Accused Of Sending Over 500 Texts Mocking Participants During Murder Trial 

This might deserve a retrial...

An Oklahoma judge stepped down from the bench Feb. 9 after allegedly sending more than 500 texts during a June murder trial she’d presided over, CNN reports.

Lincoln County District Judge Traci Soderstrom agreed to resign as part of a settlement with the state after being accused of inappropriate conduct on the bench and was petitioned to be removed from office.

During the trial, Soderstrom allegedly exchanged more than 500 texts with her courtroom bailiff in which she mocked trial participants and used offensive language to talk about the state’s attorneys. 

The petition, filed in October 2023, cited text messages in which Soderstrom made fun of attorneys, jurors, and witnesses.

The investigation by the Council on Judicial Complaints also found that Soderstrom and the bailiff mocked a prosecutor’s appearance. In one of their exchanges, the judge wrote that the district attorney was “sweating through his coat.” In another text message, Soderstrom asked, “Why does he have baby hands?… They are so weird looking.” At one point, Soderstrom speculated as to whether one of the jurors was wearing a wig.

Soderstrom evidently liked the defense attorney, texting the bailiff “She’s awesome” before later asking, “Can I clap for her?” She also showed her appreciation of a police officer who took the stand, writing that he was “pretty” before adding, “I could look at him all day.”

She even offered her opinion of the outcome of the trial, writing that there would be “no way they get guilty on murder” due to a lack of DNA evidence against the defendant.

Soderstrom was elected in November 2022 and served on the bench for only six months before texting nonstop during this trial. Her lengthy list of accusations includes gross neglect of duty, gross partiality in office, and oppression in office, according to the filing.

As part of a press conference, Soderstrom took some accountability for her actions. “There were some things that I did inappropriately,” Soderstrom said, according to ABC News. “I texted during a trial. It doesn’t matter whether it was a traffic case or whether it was a divorce case or whether it was a first-degree murder case. I texted during the trial and that was inappropriate.”

However, she said that despite her texting she remained unbiased.

“The content and the insinuation and the volume and the length of those things I am not agreeing to it because it doesn’t matter,” she added. “And it didn’t make up my mind. Even if I had, it wouldn’t have mattered because I was not the fact-finder.” 

The defendant on trial was eventually found guilty of second-degree manslaughter by the jury.