, Muskogee, OK

November 25, 2012

Veteran jurist to retire

Robinson began as lawyer in early 1950s

By Dylan Goforth
Phoenix Staff Writer

— After a law career spanning more than six decades, Special District Judge A. Carl Robinson is set to retire next month.

Robinson handles all small claims, guardianship and probate cases at the Muskogee County District Courthouse as well as half of the protective order and divorce cases, he said. He’s set to officially retire Dec. 31, although his actual final day might be a week or so earlier.

Robinson, 85, was first appointed as police judge in 1997, and later obtained legislation for the authorization of the Municipal Court of the City of Muskogee.

“That’s how I became the first judge of the Muskogee Municipal Court,” he said.

The veteran judge said he’d had many interesting experiences since he graduated from the University of Oklahoma law school in 1950. One recent case in particular stands out.

“A company back east contracted with a man who claimed to be the chief of the Southern Cherokee Nation,” Robinson said. “They were going to build a casino in Warner.”

Through some investigation, Robinson discovered there is no federally recognized Southern Cherokee Tribe. The company had spent $300,000 on the tract of land, Robinson said, and the case ended up in the court system.

“In court, three entities claimed to be the representative from the real Southern Cherokee tribe,” Robinson said. “I eventually determined the contract was void.”

The case was appealed to the Supreme Court, which agreed with Robinson’s decision.

Robinson said another standout moment in his career was a trip to Beijing in 1987. He was one of two lawyers from Oklahoma (the other was a fellow Muskogeean) to accompany U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese to the U.S./China Joint Session on Trade, Investment and Economic Law.

“We met in the Great Hall of the People’s Republic,” Robinson said. “The Chinese lawyers had never been invited to the Great Hall before. It was a most interesting experience.”

Robinson said he plans to travel and focus on some neglected hobbies after he leaves his chambers for good.

“I’d like to travel to Costa Rica,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to go there. I’d like to just pick a place I haven’t been and just go.

“I’ve also played the piano for some time and I’d like to get back into that, and painting is something I plan on doing more of, now that I have the time.”

An unnamed painting hangs above Robinson’s desk in his office. It depicts a flock of birds flying above waves crashing into rocks. Robinson said he painted it in the 1970s.

Robinson said he didn’t know whether someone will be appointed to replace him. He said the state decided that because of money problems, a retiring judge would not be replaced. However, Oklahoma Chief Justice Steven Taylor will retire the same day Robinson does, and a new chief justice may reverse that decision.

“We did a search on the computer here of any cases that had my name attached to it,” Robinson said. “The computer only went back to 2003, and it returned more than 38,000 cases.

“I would think they’d find a way,” he said. “That’s a lot of cases to divvy up.”

Reach Dylan Goforth at (918) 684-2903 or