When a jury trial results in a conviction, or for any reason one of the parties in a criminal case wants to seek reversal of the trial judge’s decision on a matter, the issue must be taken to and decided by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. That is the highest court, the court of last resort, for criminal matters in Oklahoma. Oklahoma is one of only two states in which appellate criminal matters are decided by court dedicated to criminal matters. Texas is the other state. In all other states, all issues of last resort are heard by the same court as the court that decides civil matters, usually called the state supreme court.
The five members of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals are appointed by the governor. Every four years of their term, their names appear on the retention ballot for decision by the voters. The voters of Oklahoma have never failed to retain a judge on the retention ballot.
For all these reasons, Judge Steve Lile had a job that was secure. He was one of the five judges who sat on the Court of Criminal Appeals. He could rule against every defense lawyer who brought a legal issue to the Court of Criminal Appeals for his decision. He could overrule every motion any lawyer urged on his defendant client’s behalf. He could rubber stamp practically every conviction brought to his court for review, and find no legal merit in any reason to overturn a conviction. And he did.
But then it was his turn.
Steve Lile traveled to attend project conferences, meetings of the Regimented Inmate Discipline (RID) Program offered by the Department of Corrections. He routinely applied for mileage reimbursement for that travel and was paid. But there were no meetings on those dates. Lile was filing false claims to the state so he could visit his illegitimate son, Loran Michael Wilson, in prison. Lile made almost weekly trips between June and October, 2004.
Lile had gotten caught intervening on behalf of his then-loverr, Dawn Lukasik, to get out of drug charges in Lawton. The Lawton District Attorney there dismissed the drug charges for the flimsiest of reasons, obviously as a favor to Lile, and from that incident, the travel claims came to light. Dawn Lukasik is the mother of Loran Michael Wilson, and Lile is his father, Lile later said. Lile had not known Wilson was his son until recently.
When Lile’s behavior came to light a few years ago, Lile resigned rather than fight the efforts of the Attorney General to remove him. Since then, Lile has been a private lawyer, a lawyer representing people accused of crimes, the kind of lawyer for whom Lile had such contempt for so many years.
Now the matter of Lile’s license to practice law has been heard by the Oklahoma Supreme Court. It was an ethical violation for Lile to file those false travel claims, even if he has paid back $1523.64 for false travel claims and paid back $1560.40 for false claims Lukasik made for her personal use under the pretense of using the purchases to remodel Lile’s state judge’s office.
Lile told the Supreme Court that he was regretful and remorseful for his misconduct. He was just not thinking straight, he said. Giving the limpest of possible excuses, Lile urged the Supreme Court to forgive his misconduct, that his conduct merited only a private reprimand.
The Supreme Court found no merit in Lile’s excuses, denials, and minimizations. Lile had sought and accepted an office of the highest responsibility from the sovereign state of Oklahoma. He had taken an oath to follow the law. He should have known better. He betrayed all of these. He does not deserve to practice law in Oklahoma. So decided the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court listened to and considered all of Steve Lile’s arguments. The Court ruled against him, but he received full consideration of his position by the Court. That is all defense lawyers wanted when they appeared before Lile when he was sitting on the bench.