Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Exposing Corruption

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Exposing Corruption

Article excerpt

It started as an income tax evasion case and shook the judicial system of Oklahoma.

Former Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice N.S. Corn admitted in sworn testimony that he accepted bribes for votes on the court. He also implicated two other justices. As the court scandal spread, one of the implicated justices resigned and the other was impeached and removed from office.

There is a little-known and controversial story behind the disclosure of three justices driven by greed and self-interest. Harlan Grimes was an attorney in Amos vs. Marshall, where Justice Corn admitted taking bribes. The case, on appeal, was reversed on June 5, 1956, and Grimes became obsessed with exposing corruption on the court. He started speaking out and published a pamphlet accusing a prominent Oklahoma City attorney as the chief fixer of the Supreme Court and naming certain justices as being part of the conspiracy. The attorney, O.A. Cargill, was later convicted of bribery of state judges and was implicated as the money man for the corrupt justices.

Grimes' allegations fell on deaf ears as the media and the courts dismissed him as being a sore loser. The Oklahoma Bar Association issued a complaint against Grimes for making attacks upon lawyers and justices. After a hearing before a trial examiner and a proceeding in the Supreme Court on March 3, 1960, Harlan Grimes was disbarred, leaving him disillusioned.

When the Corn testimony became public in 1965, Grimes once again emerged as a committee investigating impeachment of the two justices journeyed to Dallas to interview him. The investigation continued and was followed by explosive evidence before the legislature in the impeachment hearings.

An August 1966 article in The Wall Street Journal quoted a justice from another state as having said that this was "one of the worst things that ever happened to the courts. …

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