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Misconduct Report: November 2014

Judicial selection in Oklahoma

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Judicial selection in the states
Judicial selection in Oklahoma
Seal of Oklahoma.png
Oklahoma Supreme Court
Method:   Comm. select., Gov. appt.
Term:   6 years
Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals
Method:   Comm. select., Gov. appt.
Term:   6 years
Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals
Method:   Comm. select., Gov. appt.
Term:   6 years
Oklahoma District Courts
Method:   Non-partisan elections
Term:   4 years

Selection of state court judges in Oklahoma occurs through commission-selection and political appointment in all courts except the district courts, where judges are chosen in non-partisan elections. Most details of the selection process are similar at each court level, including policies on interim vacancies, chief judge selection and judicial qualifications.[1]

Under the Oklahoma Constitution, elected and retained judges' terms begin on the second Monday in January following their election.[2]

Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals

See also: Commission-selection, political appointment method of judicial selection

The nine justices of the Oklahoma Supreme Court and the five judges of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals are selected in an identical manner. They are appointed by the governor from a list of three names compiled by a nominating commission and serve initial terms of at least one year.[3] If voters opt to retain an appointee during the next general election, that judge will go on to serve a full six-year term.[1]

Selection of the chief justice or judge

The chief justice or judge of each court is selected by peer vote, serving in that capacity for two years.[1]

Qualifications

To serve on either of these two courts, a judge must be:

  • at least 30 years old;
  • a qualified voter in his or her respective district for at least 1 year; and
  • licensed to practice for at least 5 years (or have 5 years of service as a judge of a court of record).[1]

Vacancies

If a judge retires before the end of his or her term, the vacancy is filled just as it normally would be, with the governor appointing a successor from a list of names provided by a nominating commission. If the appointment is not made within 60 days of the vacancy, the chief justice is responsible for selecting a replacement.[4]

Court of Civil Appeals

See also: Commission-selection, political appointment method of judicial selection

The twelve judges of the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals, like those of the other appellate courts, are appointed by the governor with help from a nominating commission. New appointees serve for at least one year, after which they must run in a yes-no retention election to be retained for a full six-year term.[1]

Midterm vacancies are filled just as they are on the supreme and criminal appeals courts.[1]

Selection of the chief judge

Like the other appellate courts, the court of civil appeals selects its chief judge by peer vote. However, he or she serves in that capacity for one year rather than two.[1]

Qualifications

To serve on this court, a judge must be:

  • a qualified voter in his or her district for at least 1 year;
  • licensed to practice for at least 4 years (or have 4 years of service as a judge of a court of record).[1]

District Courts

See also: Non-partisan election of judges

Unlike all other Oklahoma judges, the 75 judges of the Oklahoma District Courts are chosen in non-partisan elections. They serve four-year terms, after which they must run for re-election if they wish to continue serving.[1]

To learn about the details of these elections, visit the Oklahoma judicial elections page.

Selection of the chief judge

The chief judge of each district court is selected by vote of the other judges. He or she serves in that capacity for a one-year term.[1]

Qualifications

To serve on this court, a judge must be:

  • a qualified voter in his or her district for at least 1 year;
  • licensed to practice for at least 4 years (or have 4 years of service as a judge of a court of record).[1]

Limited jurisdiction courts

Oklahoma's limited jurisdiction courts (the municipal court of record, the municipal court not of record and the workers' compensation court) vary in their selection processes:[5]

Municipal Court of Record Municipal Court Not of Record Workers' Compensation Court
Selection: Appointed by city governing body Mayoral appointment with consent from municipal governing body Gubernatorial appointment from judicial nominating commission
Term: 2 years[6] 2 years[6] 6 years[7]
Re-election method: Reappointment Reappointment Reappointment
Qualifications: licensed to practice law for 2 years (or 2 years of experience as a judge of a court of record) licensed to practice law law degree

History

Selection methods in Oklahoma have undergone several changes since the inception of the judiciary. Below is a timeline noting the various stages, from the most recent to the earliest:

  • 2010: By voter approval, changes are made to the judicial nominating commission:
    • The president pro tempore of the senate and the speaker of the house are each allowed to select one non-attorney member of the commission.
    • Non-lawyer commissioners may not have attorney family members.
  • 1987: Court of civil appeals judges, formerly chosen in non-partisan elections, are now chosen by the commission-selection, political appointment method.
  • 1968: The Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals is established, with judges chosen in non-partisan elections to serve six-year terms.
  • 1967: In response to scandals involving three supreme court justices, two new constitutional amendments are approved by voters aiming to protect judicial selection from overly partisan politics:
    • District court judge elections are changed from partisan to non-partisan, with interim vacancies filled by merit selection.
    • Supreme and appellate court judges begin using merit selection.
  • 1909: The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals is created, with judges elected to six-year terms. Initially named the Criminal Court of Appeals, its name is changed in 1959.
  • 1907: Under the state's original constitution, Oklahoma Supreme Court judges are elected to six-year terms and Oklahoma District Court judges to four-year terms.[8]

Selection of federal judges

United States District Court judges, who are selected from each state, go through a different selection process than that of state judges.

The district courts are served by Article III federal judges who are appointed for life, during "good behavior." They are usually first recommended by senators (or members of the House, occasionally). The President of the United States of America nominates judges, who must then be confirmed by the U.S. Senate in accordance with Article III of the United States Constitution.[9]

Step ApprovedA Candidacy Proceeds DefeatedD Candidacy Halts
1. Recommendation made by Congress member to the President President nominates to Senate Judiciary Committee President declines nomination
2. Senate Judiciary Committee interviews candidate Sends candidate to Senate for confirmation Returns candidate to President, who may re-nominate to committee
3. Senate votes on candidate confirmation Candidate becomes federal judge Candidate does not receive judgeship

See also

External links

References

OklahomaOklahoma Supreme CourtOklahoma Court of Criminal AppealsOklahoma Court of Civil AppealsOklahoma District CourtsOklahoma Workers' Compensation CourtUnited States District Court for the Eastern District of OklahomaUnited States District Court for the Northern District of OklahomaUnited States District Court for the Western District of OklahomaUnited States bankruptcy court, Eastern District of OklahomaUnited States bankruptcy court, Northern District of OklahomaUnited States bankruptcy court, Western District of OklahomaUnited States Court of Appeals for the Tenth CircuitOklahoma countiesOklahoma judicial newsOklahoma judicial electionsJudicial selection in OklahomaOklahomaTemplate.jpg