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State of Oklahoma

History of Reform Efforts: Oklahoma

Unsuccessful Reform Efforts

The legislative task force on judicial selection was created for one year in order to study the current judicial selection process in Oklahoma and make recommendations for reform to the legislature. The twenty-member task force was made up of attorneys, judges, and laypersons. Although the task force decided that the current selection process be maintained, they adopted a number of recommendations for improving the process: that the legislature establish and fund a permanent mechanism for evaluating sitting judges and candidates for judicial positions; that terms for all judges be six years and that terms for district court judges be staggered; that four lay members be added to the judicial nominating commission, two to be appointed by the senate president pro tempore and two by the speaker of the house; and that the judicial nominating commission, the governor, and the chief justice be required to consider the ethnic, racial, and gender diversity of a judicial district's population when considering judicial appointments. The legislature has not yet acted on the task force's recommendations.

A bill (SB 805) calling for merit selection and retention of district court judges was approved by the senate but failed to pass in the house of representatives. The house judiciary committee amended the bill to provide for special nonpartisan elections to fill district court vacancies, with retention elections thereafter. The amended version also limited the terms of district court judges to four successive four-year terms. The bill died in committee.

A bill (HB 1591) calling for special nonpartisan elections to fill district court vacancies was approved by the house of representatives but failed to pass in the senate.

The house of representatives approved a proposed constitutional amendment (HJR1077) calling for senate confirmation of judicial appointments and reappointments, but the measure died in the senate.