In Memoriam:  Ricki Joann Walterscheid

Oklahoma Indigent Defense System appellate attorney Ricki Joann Walterscheid, 45, died peacefully at home Thursday, March 21, 2024, surrounded by her family.  She spent her entire 20-year career as an appellate lawyer at OIDS, and the bulk of her practice was before the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. 

Ricki joined OIDS’ General Appeals Division as a freshly minted attorney after graduating from the University of Oklahoma law school in 2004.  She previously worked as a student intern in the agency’s Capital Post Conviction division assisting with death penalty cases. Ricki’s career as an appellate lawyer and public defender was extraordinary. Among the first cases she briefed as a new attorney was Seabolt v. State, 2006 OK CR 50, which remains a touchstone in analysis of Oklahoma search and seizure law.  Fittingly for a lifelong public defender, one of her last cases resulted in vindication of the fundamental right to counsel.  In Burnham v. State, 2023 OK CR 6, the Court granted a new trial after her client had been forced to trial pro se.  In between these benchmarks were so many more cases in which she successfully obtained relief for clients in ways that improved the trajectory of clients’ lives and helped shape and preserve the law that protected them. 

Ricki treated each client and case with dignity and respect for both the individual and the law.  An OSCN search finds her listed as counsel of record in more than 400 cases before the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, and OIDS’ records reflect she wrote more than 300 briefs in chief among thousands of pleadings.  She was a scholar who loved legal research and writing. Her refusal to give up the effort to find issues for her clients often led to late nights and weekends at the office diligently searching for the perfect quote from the most relevant case. She drew great joy from alliteration and the witty use of a Shakespeare quote. She loved appearing for oral argument before the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, especially in juvenile cases. She gave of her time to be a valuable sounding board for other attorneys in discussions of legal issues and difficult facts.