For Nika Sleeper and Matthew Reyes, Sept. 21 was a momentous day.
It also was an important day for Canadian County Special Judge Gary McCurdy.
For Sleeper and Reyes, it was their wedding day. For McCurdy, it was the last wedding ceremony that he would perform as a sitting judge.
It happened just after 3 p.m. in Courtroom 2, which has been McCurdy’s home office for almost two decades.
“I really enjoy doing weddings,” said McCurdy, who recently turned 66.
Gary McCurdy is not to be confused with Special Judge Jack McCurdy, who operates a courtroom about 100 feet away. The two are unrelated, although they frequently joke about their non-familial relationship.
On Friday, he conducted his final hearing, which ironically, was the ending of a marriage.
“It’s been a great ride,” he said.
McCurdy has been a practicing attorney since 1980, shortly after graduating from the University of Tulsa’s law school.
He has served in the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office, as well as an assistant district attorney in Kingfisher and Canadian counties.
He was appointed to the bench in 2001 by District Judge Ed Cunningham.
“I really enjoyed being a prosecutor. I got to work with some great bosses. … I got to try all kinds of cases. It was fun, and it was interesting. It felt like you were doing something. Some of these people aren’t very nice,” he said of being an assistant district attorney.
But when he received his appointment to the bench, his role changed.
“I still got to try criminal cases, but I got to see a lot of other parts of the law. That’s been the most interesting part,” he said.
The toughest cases, McCurdy said, were divorce cases.
“Divorce cases are much worse than a criminal case. There are no winners in divorce cases. It is such a gut-wrenching circumstance, especially when you have custody issues with kids, who are confused about why their parents are breaking up. There is nothing really you can do about that. It is such a difficult situation and it is so hard, particularly on the kids,” he said.
His favorite part of the job includes what he had just finished doing —weddings and adoptions.
“They are always fun. Most of the time, people don’t leave courtrooms very happy. So, when you have someone who has just gotten married or adopted a little baby, it’s a great event for them. So, that is really exciting, and it makes you feel good,” McCurdy said.
District Judge Paul Hesse said McCurdy’s experience is going to be missed.
“He has been a great judge for me and the two other district judges. He has a great judicial temperament. To me, he has great patience and is very respectful of the litigants who appear before him and the attorneys. He does not rush into making his decisions, and they are always well thought out,” Hesse said.
“A judge who has handled the dockets that he has handled over the last 17 years, he’s probably, more than any other judge, worked closely with the public,” Hesse said.
McCurdy has handled everything from traffic tickets to small claims cases, protective orders, divorces and the criminal docket.
“The experience will be missed. The personality will be missed even greater,” he said.
McCurdy said that he plans to do some traveling, including an upcoming trip to watch the Green Bay Packers.
He and his wife, Janie, have two children and a step grandchild, whom he said they will enjoy spending more time with.
“The people here are wonderful, but I’m not getting any younger. I’d like to have time to do some things that don’t involve the legal system. After 19 years in the DA’s office and 17 years here, I just want to do something else,” McCurdy said.
“The best part of this job has been the people. The people here are fantastic,” he said.