Dear Editor: The article by Representative Gus Blackwell in last week’s paper should not be allowed to pass without response. Representative Blackwell leaves the strong impression that royalty owners were too uninformed to make a judgment as to whether the bill was in their best interests. He even implies in his article that the legislation was good for royalty owners.
In fact, the tort reform legislation he voted for in the State House is terrible legislation for everyone, but will have a particularly negative impact on hundreds of royalty owners in Northwest Oklahoma and, indeed, throughout the State of Oklahoma. Representative Blackwell should be smart enough to know that those same trial attorneys who he seems to think are “foxes guarding the henhouse” have helped royalty owners recover hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties wrongfully and fraudulently retained by oil companies. One wonders which henhouse Representative Blackwell should be worrying about and which fox is guarding it. He and Senator Laughlin should also be smart enough to know that making Oklahoma the only state in the nation to require class action members to “opt in” to a class, will place an unreasonable and almost insurmountable burden on what is already a tremendously difficult procedure. The other procedure he mentions, that of requiring a trial court to appoint a third party to represent the class if a single class member objects to the proposed attorneys fee, will, from a practical standpoint, necessitate an additional trial, thereby lengthening a process which now drags on for years and years. Our representatives voted with their party on this issue, but they need to remember that their party is also my party and the party of most of the royalty owners their disastrous vote affected.
Representative Blackwell needs to know that Northwest Oklahoma’s royalty owners are intelligent enough to know when a proposed law helps them or hurts them. When a legislator states that he knows better than his constituents what constitutes their best interests despite their loud and sincere protests, it may be time for that legislator to seek another line of work. This is particularly true when several of those constituents, including myself, made every effort to explain the bill’s disastrous provisions to him in detail before he voted.
The people in this area should take a hard look at what has happened with this tort reform legislation, which was co-authored by our own Senator Owen Laughlin and rammed through both houses of the legislature in such a way that representatives trying to stop the bill were not given any realistic chance of defeating it. It is possible that Governor Henry will not sign the legislation. All fair minded citizens should call on the governor to veto Senate Bill 507.
Sincerely, Jamie Kee (Beaver attorney and President of the Beaver County Mineral Owners Association)