Oklahoma Supreme Court Chief Justice John Kane IV has recommended the removal of Lincoln County District Judge Traci Soderstrom following an investigation by the state’s Council on Judicial Complaints. Soderstrom is facing potential removal for sending over 500 texts to her bailiff during a murder trial, where she mocked the prosecutor, praised the defense attorney, and called a key witness a liar.
The investigation into Soderstrom began in July after she was caught on camera scrolling through social media and texting during the trial of Khristian Tyler Martzall, who was accused of fatally beating a 2-year-old. Soderstrom, who took office in January, has been suspended with pay pending a hearing by the Court on the Judiciary to determine whether she should be removed from her position.
Chief Justice Kane stated in his court filing that Soderstrom’s conduct demonstrated gross neglect of duty, gross partiality, and oppression. The texts sent by Soderstrom included derogatory comments about the prosecutor, questioning the credibility of a key witness, and making inappropriate remarks about various individuals involved in the trial.
During the trial, Martzall was eventually convicted of second-degree manslaughter in the death of Braxton Danker, the son of Martzall’s girlfriend. Judith Danker, the child’s mother, pleaded guilty to enabling child abuse and was sentenced to 25 years. Soderstrom’s texts also revealed her personal opinions about the case, suggesting bias towards the defense.
In response to the Council on Judicial Complaints, Soderstrom admitted that her texting could have waited and acknowledged that her comments should never have been made. Security footage published by The Oklahoman newspaper showed Soderstrom texting or messaging for extended periods during jury selection, opening statements, and testimony.
Chief Justice Kane’s petition also highlighted previous instances where Soderstrom had criticized other attorneys and prosecutors, as well as berated a member of the courthouse staff. The four-year term for Soderstrom as a district judge is set to end in January 2027.