Constitution Award

The Honorable Lee R. West2006 Honoree

The Honorable Lee R. West
Senior U.S. District Judge, Western District of Oklahoma

The Honorable Judge Lee R. West was appointed U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Oklahoma in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter.

Born in Clayton, Okla., in 1929, Judge West graduated from high school in Antlers, Okla., in 1948. He received a bachelor's degree in government from the University of Oklahoma in 1952. He served 28 months of active duty in Japan and Korea, achieving the rank of captain.

He received a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Oklahoma in 1956 and was selected by the faculty as the outstanding graduate of his law school class. He served as editor of the Oklahoma Law Review and president of the law school student body.

He was admitted to the Oklahoma State Bar in 1956 and engaged in private practice in Ada, Okla., until 1961 when he became a member of the faculty at the University of Oklahoma College of Law where he taught torts, damages, evidence, trial practice and workmen's compensation. During 1962-1963, he was a Ford Foundation Fellow in Law teaching at Harvard Law School where he received an LLM degree. From 1963-1965, he was again in private practice in Ada.

In 1965, Judge West was appointed by Governor Henry Bellmon to serve as District Judge for the 22nd Judicial District of Oklahoma, serving also as Special Justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals until 1973. In 1966, he graduated from The National College of State Trial Judges. He was appointed by President Richard Nixon to be a member of the Civil Aeronautics Board, Washington, D.C., in 1973 and was designated acting chairman by President Carter on May 1, 1977. He was in private practice in Tulsa from 1978 until his appointment to the federal bench.

Judge West served as Chief Judge of the Western District of Oklahoma from 1993 until he took senior status in 1994. Since that time he has remained active hearing cases at both the District and Circuit level and serving as a settlement judge in complex and protracted cases throughout the 10th Circuit.

He has been married to Mary Ann Ellis of Antlers for more than 50 years and they have two children, the Honorable Kim West, a U.S. Magistrate Judge for the Eastern District of Oklahoma, and Jennifer West of Tulsa. They also have one granddaughter, Mary Ellis Passey, who is presently a student at the University of Indiana.

His biography, “Law and Laughter, The Life of Lee West,” co-authored by Bob Burke and the Honorable David L. Russell, was published by the Oklahoma Heritage Association in 2002 as part of its Oklahoma Trackmaker Series.