Where Are They Now? - Q&A's With Notable Jenks Grads
Dana Kuehn - Tulsa County District Judge
A Jenks lifer and a mother of four boys in Jenks Public Schools, Dana Kuehn (Class of 1989) has served her community as a Tulsa County Associate District Judge for the last ten years. The time spent in Jenks’ classrooms sparked Kuehn’s passion for problem solving and public service, and today, she adjudicates civil cases and serves as the Chief of the Civil Division within the Tulsa County court system.
What are your fondest memories of attending Jenks High School?
KUEHN: Early morning practices with all of the drill members at the Old Gym in the summers, traveling to games, singing at events with the choir, the ugly uniforms we had to wear for choir (the worst), participating in Guys and Dolls and Hello Dolly!, decorating lockers for basketball players, Mr. Cary Wood the AP English teacher, the Burger Bar, drill team summer camps, Guess jeans, and permed hair. I made so many friends at Jenks and I value many of those friendships to this day.
Do you still have a close connection with Jenks High School? If so, describe activities, involvement, or what brings you back to campus.
KUEHN: I have four sons, all of which attend Jenks. My son Carter Bogie is a senior this year. My sons Zachary Kuehn and Christopher Bogie are freshmen, and my son Nicholas is a 6th grader at East Intermediate. I enjoyed serving on the Hometown Huddle Board for three years to help raise money for the Jenks Foundation. I also have enjoyed helping the Jenks Mock Trial team for the past two years.
How did your time at Jenks prepare you for your career in the legal profession?
KUEHN: Attending a large public school that offered numerous educational opportunities and extracurricular activities helped me with the competitive world of law. In law school, as an attorney, and as a judge you are expected to work hard, excel, and not shy away from conflict or complex issues. Jenks gave me an education that prepared me for college and helped me grow as a leader in extracurricular activities.
What made you want to practice law and why did you want to become a judge?
KUEHN: I enjoy reading, solving problems, helping others, and studying government. After litigating cases for ten years, I felt called to run for office and be the one making decisions and effectively running a court docket. I enjoy being in public service.
What types of cases do you preside over? Do you ever see yourself switching to another kind of court?
KUEHN: I began my judicial career calling a criminal felony docket. Being a prosecutor for ten years, it was a smooth transition. After two years, I had the opportunity to transfer to a civil docket that manages cases with damages over $10,000. I wanted to expand my knowledge of the law and made the choice to move. I am currently still on the civil docket. My ultimate career goal is to serve on an Appellate State Court.
What are the most important things you have to take into account before rendering a decision in a case and how do you remain completely impartial?
KUEHN: I consider the argument of the parties, either communicated through briefing, oral argument or both. I study the law that pertains to the case, apply the arguments of counsel, and render a decision. My job as a judge is to render a decision that is based on the law and not what I believe the outcome should be in the case personally. It is like being a referee in a sporting event. My dear friend and colleague Judge Chappelle once said, “I don’t pick a team; I just call the balls and strikes.” If I know a party or a lawyer in the case, I discuss that with them and can recuse myself if need be to avoid even an appearance of impropriety.
What are some of the most memorable cases you’ve presided over?
KUEHN: I have many memorable moments. Those include seeing my name on a State ballot, making difficult decisions in criminal cases involving the death penalty, and handling complex litigation with over ten lawyers and four billion in damages. I also have many memories of persons that I had to incarcerate or push to recovery who have thanked me when they were back on their feet. Nothing is more gratifying than helping others.
There are many headlines about the justice system and many complaints about unfair treatment. Is our justice system broken and if so, in what areas can it be changed or improved?
KUEHN: Nothing is perfect, but I believe in the United States system of justice. I have presided over hundreds of jury trials, and I am always impressed with the determination and solemnity that citizens take in doing their duty. The checks and balances that are in place assure a legally judicious outcome.
The only improvement that can be made is the balancing of punishment and treatment for offenders. I am a proponent of helping those who can help themselves and become productive citizens. Tulsa County has many successful alternative courts for veterans, women, and drug abusers. I am a proponent of serious and violent offenders being in prison. I am not in favor of a large Department of Corrections budget and cuts in education. Education is the key to better lives for all citizens.
Your title and position comes with a tremendous amount of authority. How do you deal with the burden of making decisions that affect people’s lives and potentially, their freedom?
KUEHN: I remain humble and thankful for the job that the citizens have entrusted me with when making a decision. I also value the support of my family, my friends, and God.