OBA May Seek Amendment on Judicial Selection Process

Article excerpt

TULSA (AP) -- Citing a lack of dignity in recent judicial elections, members of the Oklahoma Bar Association are considering asking the Legislature to change the way judges are selected in the state.

Attorney John Gaberino of Tulsa, president of the OBA, said the group's Board of Governors may ask the Legislature to submit a proposed constitutional amendment to voters in a statewide referendum.

"Too many times, there have been races that denigrate the offices," Gaberino said. He said many judges are disturbed about the last election and its possible impact on the judicial system. In one judicial race in Pottawatomie County this year, flyers featuring a topless photo of a female candidate and scurrilous charges about her character were anonymously circulated. She lost the election. One possibility for changing the system is to allow the electorate to continue to vote on trial judges in rural counties, where many judges remain opposed to a retention ballot, but to initiate an appointment and retention system in Tulsa and Oklahoma counties. The proposal is similar to the system in Missouri, where rural judges are elected and those in St. Louis and Kansas City are appointed. The large number of judges in the two metropolitan counties make it virtually impossible for voters to get reliable information about judges and judicial candidates, Gaberino said. It is less a problem in rural areas, where there is often only one district judge and one associate judge per district and people are more familiar with them, he said. …