Oklahoma's opioid trial judge parties with Snoop Dogg
People who think Oklahoma’s opioid trial judge is all business might want to ask him about last Saturday night.
Judge Thad Balkman spent the night partying with Snoop Dogg until 2 a.m.
“I was way out of my element,” said Balkman, a Cleveland County district judge. “We didn’t get out of the nightclub until 2 a.m. ... It was really loud. My ears were ringing. My throat was hoarse. My feet were tired. It was not something I normally do, but I wasn’t going to miss that.”
Snoop Dogg and Balkman were high school classmates, the judge quickly explained.
Saturday marked their 30-year high school class reunion.
“It was wild,” Balkman said of the free after-party that Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr., better known as Snoop Dogg, hosted for his Long Beach Polytechnic High School Class of 1989 classmates.
The Belasco nightclub in
downtown Los Angeles provided the venue, and Snoop Dogg and his friends provided the entertainment.
Joining Snoop Dogg in performing were the band Color Me Badd, rapper-beatboxer Doug E. Fresh, and popular ‘80s and ‘90s British-American rapper Slick Rick, the judge said.
“He really went all out,” Balkman said of Snoop Dogg, who has gained fame not only as a rapper, but also as a songwriter, producer, media personality, entrepreneur and actor. “It was the kind of show people would pay really good money for, but we got it free as part of our reunion.”
Balkman estimated the crowd at “not more than 200 people.”
The judge said Snoop Dogg talked to his former classmates, telling them it was during high school that he honed his rapping skills. The rapper thanked them for giving him feedback and helping him develop his talent.
Balkman said Snoop Dogg had bodyguards, so access to him was somewhat restricted, but the rapper did create opportunities for classmates to visit with him briefly and take photographs together.
Snoop Dogg’s memory is apparently pretty good, because he recalled that Balkman had been the high school’s class president.
“I said yeah, and now I’m a judge out in Oklahoma,” Balkman said. “He thought that was kind of interesting.”
Snoop Dogg commemorated the occasion by signing Balkman’s name tag “2 my favorite judge.”
Long Beach Polytechnic, located in the Los Angeles area, has a reputation for producing some famous alumni, the judge noted.
Actress Cameron Diaz was in the class behind them. Diaz and Balkman attended elementary school, middle school and high school together, the judge said.
Opera singer Marilyn Horne went to the high school. So did a lot of athletes who went on to play football professionally.
“My parents were both Oklahomans,” Balkman said. “My mom was born and raised in Stillwater. My dad was actually born in Arkansas but raised in Osage County. They both graduated from OSU and then my dad’s first job out of college was out in Los Angeles, so that’s where my brothers and I grew up.”
Balkman said he found his way back to Oklahoma when his uncle, a Norman attorney, “recruited” him to attend the University of Oklahoma law school.
Balkman has achieved a bit of fame for himself recently, presiding over a lengthy nonjury trial in which the state of Oklahoma is suing opioid manufacturers.
The state alleges the drug companies created a public nuisance and is asking for more than $17 billion to abate the problem.
Before the May 28 start of the trial, Balkman made it clear to attorneys that he wanted testimony and closing arguments to be concluded by July 26 — a deadline he now candidly admits was motivated by his desire to attend his unique class reunion.
Attorneys obliged, concluding their closing arguments on July 15.
Balkman still has a verdict to render, which he expects to do near the end of the month, but said Snoop Dogg’s party came at a good time.
“It was a much needed diversion from the hard work I’m facing,” Balkman said.