One of Shawnee's own, Douglas L. Combs, on Dec. 1 will take the helm as Chief Justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

One of Shawnee's own, Douglas L. Combs, on Dec. 1 will take the helm as Chief Justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

On Monday Combs was named to the new leadership role for the next two years.

The Oklahoma Constitution requires the Court every two years to select from its members a chief justice and a vice-chief justice.

Combs, the current Vice Chief Justice, has been a member of the Oklahoma Supreme Court since 2010.

Combs began his judicial career in 1995 as Special Judge for the 23rd Judicial District, serving Pottawatomie and Lincoln Counties. He was elected District Judge in 2002 and 2006, serving eight years before his appointment to the state’s highest court.

Though he wasn't really surprised by the appointment, Combs said he's honored to become the voice for the judiciary of Oklahoma.

“It's a pretty normal progression to serve time as chief,” he said.

The biggest majority of my role will be administrative, Combs said.

“Our judiciary suffers the same restraints as others when it comes to things like our budget,” he said. “Positions like our bailiffs and court reporters are part of our judiciary system, too,” he said, “and we also have to meet the challenges of trying to keep and reward good people after experiencing many cuts.”

The job usually begins at the first of the year, but Combs has agreed to take office in December so current Chief Justice John Reif can step down a little early.

“There have been some health issues for the last six months or so,” Combs said. “[Reif] asked if he could step aside a month sooner to make it a little easier for him to deal with that.”

Combs was born Oct. 17, 1951, in Shawnee. He graduated from Shawnee High School in 1969. Combs attended St. Gregory’s Junior College for one year on an athletic scholarship and transferred to the University of Oklahoma receiving his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science in 1973. Combs received his Juris Doctorate degree from Oklahoma City University in 1976. While in law school Combs worked as a Deputy Court Clerk for the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Following admission to the Oklahoma Bar Association in 1976, Combs served as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Oklahoma under Attorney General Larry Derryberry.

In 1977, he returned to Shawnee and entered private practice with the firm of Henry, West and Sill — first as an associate and then a partner — until 1982, when he opened his own law office in Shawnee.

Combs has been married to his wife, Janet, for 42 years. She owned and operated a private dance studio, The Shawnee Academy of Ballet, in Shawnee for 34 years, before retiring in 2010. They have two sons — Christopher and Eric — who are also attorneys. They are members of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Shawnee.

Vice-Chief Justice

Noma D. Gurich will be the next Vice Chief Justice.

According to Oklahoma State Courts Network, at oscn.net, Gurich has been a judge in Oklahoma for more than 25 years. She served on the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Court and twelve-and-a-half years as District Judge for Oklahoma County before her appointment to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

A native of Indiana, Gurich is the third woman to serve on the state’s highest appellate court. She received her Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Oklahoma College of Law and is married to John E. Miley, General Counsel of the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. The Chief Justice presides at all court sessions, administers the judicial branch of state government, and represents the Supreme Court and judicial system in public appearances.

Reif, who is concluding his term, said, "I am confident that the judicial branch of Oklahoma government will continue to thrive under capable leadership of Justices Combs and Gurich."

You can reach Vicky O. Misa at (405) 214-3962.