Oklahoma Judicial Nominating Commission
The Oklahoma Judicial Nominating Commission is the body which selects potential justices and judges for gubernatorial appointments for judicial positions on Oklahoma's appellate courts.
At the adoption of the Oklahoma Constitution in 1907, the Governors had the power to appoint, with Senate approval, anyone they wanted to any position within the judicial system that required gubernatorial appointment. This power extended to District Judges, Judges of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, as well Justices of the Oklahoma Supreme Court. However, during the 1960s, a growing desire to restrain the Governor’s executive power allowed for the adoption of a new method of selecting the judges and justices of the state’s highest courts.
On July 11, 1967, the Oklahoma Constitution was amended by State Question 447. 447 added Article 7B to the Constitution and created the Judicial Nominating Commission. The Commission consists of 13 members.
The new method mandated by Article 7B states that in the event of a vacancy, for whatever reason, within the Oklahoma Supreme Court, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, or the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals, the Commission screens a list of applicants that desire that job. Next, the Commission selected three qualified nominees and presents the names to the Governor. The Governor may then appoint one of the nominees to position with further approval not necessary. If the Governor fails to appoint a nominee to the position within sixty days, the Chief Justice of Oklahoma may make the selection.
The Commission’s power only extends to Oklahoma’s appellate courts. It can not influence the other judicial candidates. However, should there be an unexpected vacancy within the District Courts, the Commission may provide the same serve as it dose for the higher courts.
The majority of Commission is “sufficient to decide any question”, unless otherwise specified by the Constitution. The Commission has jurisdiction to determine whether the qualifications of nominees to hold a judicial position have been met and to determine the existence of vacancies on the Commission.
The Commission consists of 13 members: 6 appointed by the Governor, 6 selected by the Oklahoma Bar Association, and the thirteenth selected at large by the other twelve. Of the six appointed by the Governor, each one must come from a different Congressional District that existed in Oklahoma in 1967 and none are allowed to be a licensed attorney in Oklahoma. The 13th member is selected by an eight member majority, must not be a licensed attorney in Oklahoma or any state, but must be a resident of Oklahoma. In the event that the Commission can not reach a majority within thirty days, the Governor may select the at-large member.
Each members serves a staggered six year term. No person is eligible to immediately succeed themselves.
The Chairman of the Commission is selected by its own members to serve for a one year term.
Of the members selected by the Governor, no more than three may belong to the same political party. All commissioners serve without pay, but are compensated for travel expresses. No commissioner, while a member of the Commission, is allowed to hold any other public office by election or appointment. They may not serve as any official within a political party and are not eligible for nomination to a judicial position by the Commission. This restriction applies as long as the commissioner is a part of the Commission and for five years after their term is over.