Calvey proposes judicial election measure
By Shawn Ashley, eCapitol
Rep. Kevin Calvey announced Monday the is introducing a measure that will let Oklahomans vote on whether the state Supreme Court and other appellate judges should be elected by the people in nonpartisan elections.
“Our current system of selecting state Supreme Court jurists is not transparent, not accountable to the people and is dominated by the lawyers’ special interest group,” Calvey, R-Edmond, said in a press release. “No wonder we get outrageous state Supreme Court decisions like banning the Ten Commandments, causing extra costs on doctors and small business owners and allowing predatory abortionists like felon Dr. Patel to remain unregulated.” Calvey requested and received approval for an interim study, H15-121, on judicial reform. It was one of four studies assigned to the full House and was held Nov. 2. Speakers at the study pointed to problems with the current method of selecting and retaining appellate judges. None of the speakers spoke in favor of the current system.
“Twenty-one states elect their state Supreme Court by popular election,” Calvey said in the release. “States which elect their Supreme Courts actually rank better than Oklahoma in terms of impartiality and the competence of judges. Contrary to the special-interest hysteria of entrenched opponents of reform, the facts show that electing state Supreme Court jurists will improve Oklahoma’s judiciary, not cause problems. It is also contrary to false claims from the lawyers’ special interest group, the Oklahoma Bar Association, that Oklahoma’s current system was not necessary to prevent judicial corruption in a 1960s court bribery scandal. The truth is the lawyers used the judicial bribery scandal as a pretext to enact Oklahoma’s lawyer-dominated judicial selection system, a system that had been proposed over 25 years earlier.”
Currently, the justices and appellate judges are appointed by the governor from a list chosen by the unelected Judicial Nominating Commission. Calvey said his joint resolution, which is expected to be number HJR1037 and if approved by the Oklahoma Legislature, would let voters decide whether or not to change the appointment process to a nonpartisan election process.
The resolution was not officially filed and posted on the Legislative Services Bureau website at the close of business Monday.
Calvey said a November poll conducted by North Star Opinion Research of 500 registered voters had 79 percent in favor of a judicial election system versus 16 percent in favor of the current system. The poll had an even number of Republicans and Democrats.
An Oklahoma City attorney who serves as general counsel for the Oklahoma Republican Party said the poll shows that, independent of party, Oklahomans want judicial elections. “When implemented, HJR 1037 will bring transparency to judicial selection and balance of powers between the branches of government,” said A. J. Ferate in Calvey’s release. “The poll numbers show that independent of political party, Oklahomans want change in the way state Supreme Court jurists are selected.” Ferate was one of the people who spoke at Calvey’s interim study hearing in November. “It’s time to let the people have a say on how they want their state Supreme Court chosen,” Calvey said in the release.