Members of the Task Force on Judicial Selection must have some
recommendations ready by Dec. 1 to allow time for drafting
legislation before the deadline for consideration during the next
session, according to Frederick attorney Anthony Massad, who chairs
The former state senator and past president of the Oklahoma Bar
Association, who currently chairs the Council on Judicial
Complaints, said legislative staff have told him of the short time
left to complete their work on the election-appointment issue. In a
meeting last week, Oklahoma State University professor Robert Darcy
presented a list of draft proposals prepared by him and Stillwater
attorney William James Baker in an effort to give direction to the
task force. The recommendations are to:
* Adopt written criteria by which the judicial nominating
commission evaluates applicants for judicial positions.
* Invite the Oklahoma Bar Association to revisit their procedures
for selecting bar members for the judicial nominating commission,
with the goal of having bar representatives more resemble the
diversity of the state.
* Select all judges through a nominating commission and
gubernatorial appointment, with retention through a vote of the
people in a retention election. As an alternative, judges on the
Workers Compensation Court could be placed on the judicial retention
* Create or maintain, wherever possible and practical, minority-
majority sub-districts from which judicial vacancies are filled.
* Fund a Judicial Evaluation Commission through the Supreme Court
budget and give it statutory authority to evaluate candidates on the
judicial retention ballot.
Former Oklahoma County District Judge Bill Burkett, who was
defeated in the last election, said he supports the current
appointment process for judges. "No system's going to be good," he
said. "I just think it's better."
He said it is essential that those best qualified be named
district judges, who must follow the law without being concerned
about public opinion. "It's just not the way it should be run," he
said of the possibility of issuing rulings with an eye toward
staying in office.
Ben Blackstock, formerly with the Oklahoma Press Association,
noted that Oklahoma County District Attorney Robert Macy bought
newspaper advertisements supporting a slate of his employees for
district court positions in that election and made certain
allegations against Burkett.
The former judge said Macy made allegations that were not based
on fact. "I'm not surprised that Macy campaigned against me and I
wouldn't have minded if (the allegations) were true," Burkett said.
"I would be happy if the Code of Judicial Conduct applied and if
there were penalties for false statements."
Every time a district judge rules on a case, he said, he makes
someone angry, "or at least disgruntled."
Blackstock said there has been talking about tampering with the
judicial selection process. He asked if there is anything that can
be done to ensure that applicants do not try to influence the
Judicial Nominating Committee or governor. …