System to rate Oklahoma civil judges considered, criticized
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: The Oklahoma Civil Justice Council, a group that will sponsor a rating system for state civil judges, will soon be launched and has garnered support from business interests around the state. However, the proposed Council is also coming in for its share of criticism.
The Oklahoma Civil Justice Council plans to introduce a system that will rate the judges of the state Supreme Court and the Court of Civil Appeals on a scale of zero to 100. The system will examine which judges are in favor of the expansion of liabilities and evaluate judges who expand existing law, with the stated goal of providing information to the public and to members of the chamber. The State Chamber, the Tulsa Metro Chamber, the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, and some business are in favor of the Oklahoma Civil Justice Council and its new ranking system. According to State Chamber President and CEO and president of the new Council Fred Morgan, "The business community has become more active in evaluating judges and looking at the legal system and getting involved in how the legal system affects them."
However, the ranking system is also receiving some negative reviews. One Tulsa attorney, Clark Brewster, said the new system is a way for wealthy business owners to bully the judiciary in an "attempt to slant . . . the judiciary in favor of big business and away from the common person to have a fair day in the courtroom." Former Justice Daniel Boudreau, a retired judge who has served on every level of court in the state, has expressed concern that the evaluation will only measure whether a particular decision or a judge is pro- or anti-business, which he believes would not be appropriate, because unlike politicians, judges do not have the right to consider the desires of the public and special interest groups. "Sometimes, [the judiciary] has to make an unpopular decision. The question you have to ask yourself is not whether it was unpopular, but based on an objective evaluation and application of the law."
Another critic cautions that rating judges based on their "pro-business" or "anti-business" positions is an arbitrary way to evaluate judges that does not necessarily provide useful information about a judge's performance. As that critic points out, "Judges are selected to follow the law. Period. In some instances the law might favor business; sometimes it does not. The best a judge can do is apply the law fairly and consistently."