Oklahoma's new pleading code, as it applies to the state court
system, has shifted much of the burden of proof to the side of the
In cutting down the amount of information required in a
plaintiff's petition, the defendant is forced to spend a lot of money
and the attorney a lot of time in the discovery process in order to
determine the exact details of the charges, according to District
Judge David M. Cook.
The Oklahoma Pleading Code, effective Nov. 1, 1984, was patterned
after federal rules and collects and centralizes pleadings in the
"It was again, the Legislature acting pursuant to requests of the
legal profession to adopt federal rules of civil procedure," said
"Federal courts seem to pioneer reform in procedure. This is
The new code has both disadvantages and advantages. Though it
places more burden on the defendant, the cumbersome pleadings
resulted in a delay and "legal game playing," placing too much
emphasis on strategy rather than on a prompt settlement of the
dispute, Cook said.
"Under the old system, they're forced to consider strategy.
Strategy was more important than substance. Form was more important
than substance," he said.
In many instances, the defense has simply filed for a motion of
summary judgment in an attempt to educate the judge on the facts of
the case, and in substitution of motions excluded from the code.
If the motions are unfounded, they are not well taken by the
Filing an action in district court today is very simple - too
simple, Cook said.
Federal rules of procedure adopted by the state courts promote a
more general, relaxed pleading standard.
"The principle prevails that if there is a valid claim, let the
petition or action be heard after use of discovery and proper
pre-trial procedure," Cook said.
The principal advantage is found in the form of the petition.
By streamlining the procedure, the plaintiff's attorney only has
to include a short statement of the claim showing the plaintiff is
entitled to relief and the demand for relief.
It has for the most part eliminated dramatic petitions loaded with
sometimes biased information used to persuade the judge and jury
early in the case.
Historically, pleadings were read to the jury at the first trial.
It was the first opportunity to state the case. As the courts pulled
away from that practice, it seemed more practical to establisha code
conforming with federal procedures.
The new code also allowed elimination of causes of action, facts,
conclusions of law and ultimate facts, Cook said.
The disadvantage is that it forces the defendant "to go to the
time, trouble and expense to find out what the claim is all about,"
Although much of the explanation is no longer required in the
petition, Cook said a good pleader will still include it. Lengthy
petitions are not forbidden.
Oklahoma City Attorney Larry Tawwater disagreed that streamlining
procedures had worked to the disadvantage of the defendants.
"I don't see considerably more discovery than we had anyway,"
Tawwater said, adding that discovery has always been used extensively
by both sides. …