John Michael was born in Ada to a preacher at the Christian church. In 3rd grade he moved to Cherokee, then to Pond Creek in 11th grade. For college, John attended Phillips University and East Central before graduating with his bachelor’s degree from Oklahoma State. Desiring to be a lawyer, he attended the Oklahoma University School of Law, graduating with a juris doctorate in 1971. John was in private practice in Medford before running for Associate District Judge in Grant County. In 1985 he was appointed District Judge in Garfield County where he remained until his retirement in 2005. He was so well respected that he faced only one contested election in over 30 years on the bench.
1n 1999 he helped start the Garfield County Specialty/Drug Court which has seen hundreds of successful graduates get their lives back on track and become excellent contributors to society. He continues to volunteer his time as the Drug Court Judge in retirement and takes great pleasure in its success.
Judy Helberg, former Specialty/Drug Court Coordinator said “I could write forever on what Judge Michael has done for Specialty Drug Court. He always has the hard job of keeping clients in line, and it’s not always easy. He listens, is patient, and tries to understand all sides to a situation. Clients finishing the program often say he was always fair and respected him to the fullest. Judge Michael has always looked at Specialty Court as something God has called him to do, and helping people change their lives by getting employment, education and in some cases reuniting families that have been affected by addiction is all the satisfaction he needs for the job.”
The current Specialty Court Coordinator, Kara Savage, said “Judge Michael has had an immense impact this community over the last 20 years, one graduate at a time. He is passionate about the success of each participant and remains persistent so that each one of them end up a productive citizen of society.”
Judge Michael lives with his wife Cheri, with whom he has one adult son, Johnie. He also has two other sons, Seth and Drew from a previous marriage and 4 grandchildren.
For Judge Michael’s honorable service to the community, he is a true “Local Legend.”
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