The following article was authored by Fleeson Gooing attorney Bill Tretbar at the request of the Southwest Kansas Royalty Owners Association (SWKROA), and was read at its recent annual meeting. The article will also appear in the SWKROA newsletter and is reprinted here by permission.
PASSING OF A TORCH AND THE END OF AN ERA
Dale Stucky and Greg Stucky. The names are well-known to anyone familiar with SWKROA and its activities on behalf of SWKROA members. For more than half-a-century—57 years in all—first Dale Stucky and then Greg Stucky (Dale’s son) served the Association as its General Counsel. And over that time, no one did more than Dale and Greg to recast the legal relationship between hydrocarbon producers and Kansas royalty owners, and to level a playing field that had been severely tilted since the Hugoton Field was first discovered and developed.
Greg Stucky resigned his post as General Counsel last summer after serving SWKROA in that role since 1992. He has been succeeded by Dave Seely, Greg’s colleague of 30 years at the Wichita law firm of Fleeson, Gooing, Coulson & Kitch, L.L.C. Dave has worked closely with Greg in Association matters and royalty-related litigation since the early-1990’s.
“Dave is a fine lawyer who brings excellent judgment and a wealth of legal knowledge to the role of General Counsel,” Greg said recently. “He has been performing sophisticated legal work on matters of interest to royalty owners for years, and will do an outstanding job representing the Association going forward.”
As for the Stucky legacy, most readers are aware of the various class action suits that Dale, Greg and their colleagues at Fleeson Gooing have pursued against various producers over many decades. Perhaps less well-known, but equally valuable, are the efforts both undertook on behalf of the Association itself. Greg points to the many amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) briefs that he and his colleagues have filed on behalf of SWKROA as being among the more satisfying projects he has worked on over the course of his career. The amicus briefs have been instrumental in insuring that the Kansas Supreme Court understands the extent to which its resolution of a particular case will have far-reaching implications for royalty owners throughout Kansas. These briefs have also insured that the arguments in favor of the royalty-owner position have been presented clearly and persuasively, based on rigorous and thorough legal scholarship. Among the many cases in which a SWKROA amicus brief appears to have played a significant role in the outcome are Sternberger v. Marathon Oil (marketable condition rule), Levin v. Maw Oil and Gas (clarification of obligation to pay shut-in royalties) and Northern Natural Gas v. ONEOK (ownership rights of gas that has migrated from underground storage fields).
Greg was also tireless in his role as General Counsel in providing testimony on behalf of SWKROA before numerous committees of the Kansas Legislature. His efforts played an instrumental role in securing the passage of legislation which now requires producers to disclose certain information (and provide additional information upon request) to royalty owners regarding the calculation of royalties with each payment, establishes the right of royalty owners to receive interest on royalties which are paid late, and requires timely notice to surface owners with respect to significant events associated with the drilling and operation of oil and gas wells in Kansas.
“It’s been both an honor and a genuine pleasure to work with SWKROA and its members over the years,” said Greg. “I’ve worked on difficult and challenging issues in cases that impact thousands of people, and almost always against an adversary with unlimited resources. To know that we have been successful in so many of those efforts is tremendously satisfying on a professional level,” he said. “What I didn’t know when I began my association with SWKROA, but am so grateful for today, was that I would work with and form lasting friendships with so many extraordinary people. The royalty owners I’ve worked with and come to know have been remarkably gracious and kind to us over the years. They are as fine and high-quality a group of people as any lawyer could ever hope to represent. I’ve been blessed by those associations.”