Legal Industry

Q&A with Judge Nightingale

Rebecca Brett Nightingale is an elected District Judge in the State of Oklahoma. She took office January 1, 2003 and has called a felony criminal docket, a civil docket and the Veteran’s Treatment Court docket for Tulsa County. Judge Nightingale also supervises the Alternative Courts program in Tulsa County, which include Drug Court, DUI Court, Mental Health Court and Veteran’s Treatment Court. In 2007, Judge Nightingale established Mental Health Court in Tulsa County. In May 2015, Judge Nightingale became the first female to serve as Presiding Judge of the Fourteenth Judicial District State of Oklahoma.

Recently Judge Nightingale served as Presiding Judge on the Court on the Judiciary, Trial Division. Her best work is her family and service to her church and Bible Study Fellowship.

Q&A with Judge Nightingale

Q: Can you tell us about more about your involvement in establishing Mental Health Court in Tulsa County?

A: The Anna McBride Act passed and the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services started making dollars available to start mental health courts for criminal offenders. I agreed to work in Tulsa County to start a Mental Health Court after seeing the challenges for criminal defendants who had trouble navigating the criminal justice system and getting the treatment they needed. Jail is not a place to successfully treat a mental health disorder. Mental Health Courts reduce the jail population as well as hospitalizations.

Q: What changes do you foresee as necessary regarding how we serve individuals with mental or substance use disorders who become involved in the justice system?

A: There is currently a lot of effort being poured into criminal justice reform. Working daily with offenders it seems that the concept of criminal justice reform is not reaching the actual people who need it. Individuals with substance and mental health disorders need more treatment opportunities rather than more beds in prison. Prison beds should be reserved for violent offenders.

Q: At the end of the day, what is your greatest hope to have accomplished through your role as a judge?

A: There is no more honorable profession than public service. I believe that I have answered the call to service and hope that I have paved the way for others who are called. Serving as a judge is about the service and not the title.

Q: What advice would you give to a young professional aspiring to be a Judge someday?

A: Work hard and be professional. The reputation of a good lawyer goes a long way to making a good judge.

Q: Do you have a favorite quote?

A: “Attitude is a little thing that makes a BIG difference.” — Winston Churchill

Q: What do you like to do when you are not in the courtroom?

A: I like to bake which means I also like to spin/cycle to try to keep the pounds away. Reading and spending time with family are also where my heart is.

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