Oklahoma Supreme Court chief justice blocks contempt hearing for OKC police chief
The chief justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court on Thursday blocked judges in two counties from telling Oklahoma City police where to take suspects after arrest.
The emergency order comes as the feud between Oklahoma City Police Chief Wade Gourley and the judges intensifies.
At issue is the longstanding Oklahoma City police practice of taking suspects to the Oklahoma County jail regardless of where they were arrested.
Because of the pandemic, the top judge in Cleveland County in April ordered police to immediately stop taking suspects arrested there to the wrong jail. The top judge in Canadian County issued an almost identical order soon afterward.
Police have not complied, and the city is now challenging the validity of the orders.
The challenge went first to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals and then to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
Justices now must determine if they will hear the dispute or send it back to the Court of Criminal Appeals. Chief Justice Noma Gurich blocked enforcement of the orders only temporarily while justices resolve the jurisdictional questions.
The feud heated up Thursday when the police chief was ordered to appear in Canadian County District Court next week to show cause why he should not be found in contempt of court for violation of the transport order there. District Judge Jack McCurdy said failure to appear would result in the issuance of a bench warrant for the chief's arrest.
The chief also had been ordered to appear Friday for a second time in Cleveland County District Court about the issue.
The chief justice also blocked those hearings from taking place. City attorneys had asked for the emergency stay.
"The Police Chief cannot adequately perform his duties while under constant threat of contempt proceedings and bench warrants," city attorneys complained.