'His Life Moved The Needle': Remembering Oklahoma Co. Chief Public Defender Bob Ravitz

The county's Chief Public Defender Bob Ravitz, 71, died suddenly Tuesday reportedly from a heart attack.

Wednesday, January 24th 2024, 5:05 pm



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A man described as a legal giant and a champion for criminal justice reform leaves a lasting legacy in Oklahoma County. The county's Chief Public Defender Bob Ravitz, 71, died suddenly Tuesday reportedly from a heart attack.

Ask any attorney, judge or Oklahoma County employee and they will likely tell you how Ravitz touched their life. However, Ravitz fought tirelessly for the citizens involved in the legal system.

“He, in fact, defended the public,” said Richard Ogden, Oklahoma County Presiding District Judge. 

At the end of a long hallway, a room in the Oklahoma County Public Defender's Office sat quiet on Tuesday, covered in awards and priceless memories. Ravitz held the position of Chief Public Defender for more than 30 years and worked in the office even longer.

“It wasn’t just a title for him,” said Ogden.

Presiding District Judge Richard Ogden had the somber duty of informing Ravitz's employees, judges, and the Oklahoma County District Attorney's office of the unexpected death Tuesday morning.

“It came as a big, big shock to all of us,” said Ogden.

Ogden said Ravitz worked tirelessly to improve the county's justice system and jail.

“Even after 35 years plus of being a public defender,” said Ogden. “I mean his life moved the needle.”

Ravitz even worked with county commissioners to create alternative sentencing for offenders. He helped create SHINE, a community sentencing program.

“He wanted something that showed punishment but mercy and to not have the taxpayers fronting the bill by incarcerating them,” said Brian Maughan, District 2 Oklahoma County Commissioner. “Especially if they pose no harm to the community.”

Ravitz's legacy went beyond the walls of the Oklahoma County Courthouse. He taught young legal minds at Oklahoma City University School of Law.

“And those people that went there are better lawyers because of his teachings,” said Irven Box, attorney. 

Box said many of those students went on to work in the public defender's office, inspired by Ravitz's work.

“His legacy is that he created I think the best public defender’s office in the United States,” said Box.

Former Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater shared his thoughts on Ravitz’s life and work:

"Bob Ravitz was a true public servant. He gave his full measure every day to make this world a better place. For decades, as others came and went, Mr. Ravitz was in the Oklahoma County Courthouse building relationships to assure that all parties were treated well by our criminal justice system. He truly was responsible for holding that courthouse together, even in the most challenging of times.
"Mr. Ravitz demanded that fair play and honest interaction rule the day. Criminal defendants certainly benefitted from Bob's involvement in their cases, but unknown to many, he was focused on the just treatment of everyone. He would not stand for the mistreatment of victims, law enforcement officers or any other person. He dedicated his life to his purpose.
"On a personal note, Bob was a dear friend. Whether I agreed with him or not on any given issue, I always knew that Bob was doing what his heart drove him to do. I never questioned his honesty, his dedication, his ethics, or his character. I appreciate his friendship, his counsel, and his example. I've been blessed by his friendship, and I will miss him."

 Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt described Ravitz as an institution in the community.

“No conversation about criminal justice occurred in this community without him. He was a champion for justice and the epitome of public service. He will be missed. We send out deepest condolences to his family.”

Ravitz’s funeral will be held at 10:30 a.m. on January 30th at Crossing Community Church in northwest Oklahoma City.

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