Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Edmondson Rules Oklahoma Judicial Nominating Commission Can Continue

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Edmondson Rules Oklahoma Judicial Nominating Commission Can Continue

Article excerpt

The Oklahoma Judicial Nominating Commission can continue its work and three of its members needn't have resigned, an opinion from state Attorney General Drew Edmondson said.

Released late Wednesday afternoon, Edmondson's seven-page opinion clears the way for the JNC to complete its work in choosing a new justice for the state Supreme Court. The opinion was requested by Allen Smallwood, chairman of the JNC.

Edmondson's opinion - which has the force of law - lays out a three-point argument that would allow the JNC to continue its work.

"Because of the language of State Question No. 752, Legislative Referendum 352 does not indicate the Legislature or the people who adopted it, intended it to apply retroactively," the opinion states. "The current Judicial Nominating Commission members, appointed prior to the adoption of State Question No 752, are not prohibited from having an immediate family member who is admitted to the practice of law in Oklahoma or any other state."

That portion of Edmondson's opinion would have cleared JNC members Sarah Redwine, Connie Calvert and Kathryn Cornell, who left the commission because they had spouses who are attorneys.

Edmondson's ruling also noted SQ 752 - which adds two members to the JNC to be appointed by members of the Legislature - was ambiguous.

"Ambiguous constitutional provisions that restrict the right of a person to hold public office, such as a lay member of the Judicial Nominating Commission, must be narrowly construed against ineligibility to hold office," the ruling said. "Giving the term, 'immediate family," as used in (the) Oklahoma Constitution ... the most narrow construction, a person is prohibited from serving as a lay member of the Judicial Nominating Commission if one of the following members of such a person's immediate family are admitted to the bar in this state or any other state: a child under the age of 18 years old residing in the person's household; the person's spouse, or an individual claimed by the person or the person's spouse as a dependent for tax purposes. …

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