Citing displeasure at recent state supreme court decisions on abortion drugs, removing a Ten Commandments monument from capitol grounds, and other rulings, the Oklahoma House Elections and Ethics Committee approved on a 4-3 vote a plan to remove all sitting members of the state’s appellate courts and change the way they are selected.
Under HJR 1037 as amended (amended text here), “Any previously stated right to a judicial seat provided for in this Constitution is hereby extinguished.” All sitting appellate judges would have to face off in 2018 in nonpartisan elections.
Currently the state’s constitution provides for a merit/commission based system for the Justices of the Supreme Court and Judges of the Court of Criminal Appeals; by statute the same system applies to the Court of Civil Appeals.
The state’s constitution creates a 15-member Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC):
• 6 non-attorney members appointed by district by the Governor
• 6 attorney members elected by the active member of the bar in the district
• 3 non-attorney members selected from the state at-large by the other 12 members of the JNC
When a vacancy occurs, the JNC sends three nominees to the governor who must select from the list. If the governor fails to do so within 60 days, the chief justice picks.
In lieu of this system the legislature is considering not only HJR 1037 but several other options.