OKLAHOMA'S JUDICIAL SYSTEM
by Steve Fair
How are Oklahoma’s appellate court judges and justices appointed?
All judges and justices on the three courts of last resort in Oklahoma are appointed by the Governor of Oklahoma. But they must first go through a ‘nominating’ process conducted by the Oklahoma Judicial Nominating Commission. The commission submits three candidates to the governor, who must select from the three. After nomination by the governor, they must be confirmed by the State Senate.
Who is on the Judicial Nominating Commission?
There are 15 members- six appointed by the governor (must not be lawyers or have lawyers in their family). No more than three of the governor’s appointments can be people with the same political party affiliation. The Oklahoma Bar Association appoints six members (a lawyer from each Congressional district). There is one appointment by the Speaker of the Oklahoma House and one by the Oklahoma Senate President Pro Tempore (cannot be a lawyer)and the last member selected by the other 14 members. Commission members serve 6 year terms. The Chairman of the Commission is elected by the membership and serves a one year term. Commission members cannot be an official within a political party or an elected official during their term and for five years after their term ends. They are not paid, but are reimbursed for travel expenses.
Where do you find information on the judges/justices?
It is very difficult to find information on the judges and their ideology. Two of the courts of last resort have websites where they publish their decisions. The Oklahoma Supreme Court website is: https://www.oscn.net/schome/ The Oklahoma Court of Criminal appeals website is: http://www.okcca.net/ The Oklahoma Court of Civil decisions can be viewed at Justia. That website is: https://law.justia.com/cases/oklahoma/court-of-appeals-civil/ Their political affiliation is not public information. The judicial conduct code prevents the judges/justices from campaigning, which limits voter information on their individual ideology/values/philosophy.
How many judges/justices are up for retention in November?
There are eleven up for retention. Four on the Supreme Court, five on the Court of Civil Appeals, and two on the Court of Criminal Appeals.
Has a judge/justice ever not been retained?
No, since Oklahoma began judicial retention, no judge/justice has not been retained.