Oklahoma Judicial Nominating Commission
The Oklahoma Judicial Nominating Commission chooses potential nominees for appointment by the governor to judicial positions on Oklahoma's appellate courts. The commission was designed to be free from partisan political influence; this was achieved by not allowing multiple members of the same party to be appointed to the commission and not allowing commission members to serve in other state offices while also serving on the committee.
When a vacancy is announced, interested individuals may apply to fill it. The commission evaluates those individuals to determine if the applicant is qualified to serve as a judge in the state. When the commission is done with its evaluation of all candidates, it submits in writing a list of the three top applicants to both the governor and the chief justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
The governor must make an appointment from the list to fill the vacancy within 60 days. If he does not, the chief justice may appoint one of the individuals on the list. The appointment must be certified by the Oklahoma secretary of state.
The commission consists of 15 members. The first six are lawyers who are elected by the Oklahoma Bar Association, one person from each of the six congressional districts which existed in 1967 (also known as the "old congressional districts"). Next, six members are non-lawyers who are appointed by the governor. He or she selects one person one from each of the six old congressional districts to serve on the commission. Of these, no member can have a lawyer in their immediate family. No more than three of the governor-appointed members can belong to the same political party.
Finally, in 2010, voters approved a ballot measure allowing the president pro tempore of the state Senate and the speaker of the House to each choose one at-large lawyer member to serve on the commission. The 15th member is selected at-large by an eight-member majority of the other appointed and elected commission members. This member cannot be a licensed attorney in Oklahoma or any other state and must reside in Oklahoma. If the commission cannot agree on a member within 30 days, the governor may choose the at-large member.
Lawyer members and non-lawyer members alike serve six-year terms, staggered at two-year intervals. Members-at-large serve for terms of two years. No member is eligible to serve immediately after completing a term on the commission. The commission's members are not paid.
|Current members of nominating commission|
|Commissioner||Type of member||Term ends|
|John H. Tucker||Attorney||October 5, 2017|
|Deborah Reheard||Attorney||October 5, 2017|
|Michael C. Mordy||Attorney||October 5, 2019|
|Peggy Stockwell||Attorney||October 5, 2019|
|Larry D. Ottaway||Attorney||October 5, 2015|
|Stephen D. Beam, Chair||Attorney||October 5, 2015|
|Steve Turnbo (D)||Lay member||October 5, 2019|
|Gill Luton (D)||Lay member||October 5, 2019|
|Jim Hamby (R)||Lay member||October 5, 2017|
|Ed Crocker (R)||Lay member||October 5, 2017|
|Jenny Dunning (D)||Lay member||October 5, 2015|
|Lee Evans (R)||Lay member||October 5, 2017|
|Carmela D. Hill (D)||At-large (elected by commission)||October 5, 2015|
|Eric Cottrill, M.D. (I)||At-large (appointed by Oklahoma Senate president||October 5, 2015|
|VACANT||At-large (appointed by Oklahoma House of Representatives speaker||December 31, 2014|
When the Oklahoma Constitution was adopted in 1907, judges were chosen through partisan elections. In 1967, three justices on the Oklahoma Supreme Court were impeached, or resigned from office, after the IRS investigated reports indicating the justices had accepted bribes in exchange for making favorable decisions in cases. Following the bribery scandal, the state decided to change the judicial selection process, in an effort to insulate the process from partisan politics.
On July 11, 1967, voters approved State Question 447 which amended the Oklahoma Constitution, by adding Article 7B, and creating the Judicial Nominating Commission. In 1969, the commission began nominating justices to serve on the Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeals through a merit selection process known as the Missouri Plan. The Court of Civil Appeals was created in 1968 and judges serving on this court were selected in nonpartisan elections until 1987, when the selection process was changed to the Missouri Plan. District and associate district judges, as well as judges on the Workers' Compensation Court, are still chosen in nonpartisan elections. However, vacancies on these courts are filled by the nominating commission. By law, the nominating commission has the sole responsibility to determine if a candidate is qualified to serve as a judge.
In April 2014, a Senate joint resolution was introduced to change the makeup of the commission. Senator Clark Jolley authored the bill because he felt the judiciary played too big a role in selecting its own people. It would affect how the attorney members of the commission were selected. Currently, they are selected by election of the Oklahoma Bar Association. If Jolley's bill is successful, however, those six seats would be filled by the House speaker and Senate president, each having three appointments. Democrats were unhappy with the bill, however, as they saw it as an attempt by the legislative branch to meddle with the judicial branch.
After a third floor reading of the amended bill, however, the measure failed on April 24, 2014. The vote tally was 65 nay to 31 aye.
This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the terms "Oklahoma Judicial Nominating Commission."
- Some of the stories below may not be relevant to this page due to the nature of Google's news search engine.
- Judicial selection in Oklahoma
- Oklahoma Supreme Court
- Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals
- Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals
- Oklahoma District Courts
- The Oklahoma State Courts Network
- Oklahoma Judicial Nominating Commission members
- About the Oklahoma Judicial Nominating Commission
- www.judicialselection.com, "Methods of Judicial Selection: Oklahoma," accessed December 30, 2013
- Oklahoma State Court Network, "Oklahoma Judicial Nominating Commission," accessed May 1, 2015
- Oklegal.net, "Oklahoma Constitution, Article VII-B, Section 4," accessed May 1, 2015
- Oklahoma Bar Association, "Judicial Nominating Commission," accessed May 1, 2015
- www.judicialselection.com, "History of Reform Efforts: Oklahoma," accessed January 1, 2014
- Oklahoma Court State Network, "Commission members," accessed May 1, 2015
- Oklahoma Historical Society's Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History & Culture, "Scandals, Political," accessed December 30, 2013
- Brennan Center for Justice, "Oklahoma Bill Could Change Selection of Judicial Nominating Commission Members," April 18, 2014
- Tulsa World, "Legislation targeting Oklahoma judiciary stirs debate," April 14, 2014
- Oklahoma Legislature, "Bill Information for SJR 21," accessed May 1, 2015