Judicial Evaluation Mechanism Recommended
Janie Hainey The Journal Record, THE JOURNAL RECORD
A task force studying the way judicial seats are filled voted unanimously Friday to recommend that the Legislature establish and fund a permanent mechanism for evaluating sitting judges and candidates for judicial positions.
That recommendation will be a part of the final report approved by the Legislative Task Force on Judicial Selection, to be filed with the Legislature and Gov. Frank Keating by Jan. 15.
Last month, the panel decided to keep the present basic framework for gubernatorial appointment and retention election of appellate court judges and election of trial court judges and to require that Workers Compensation Court judges face retention elections.
Also approved were recommendations that terms for all judicial offices -- appellate, district, associate district and workers comp judges -- be six years and that terms for district court judicial officers be staggered. A proposal was rejected that would have moved judicial elections from general election ballots to school district elections.
On Friday, task force members approved a recommendation by Oklahoma County District Judge Niles Jackson to amend the Oklahoma Constitution to require the Judicial Nominating Commission, the governor and the chief justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court, when considering appointments for judicial positions, to consider the ethnic, racial and gender diversity of the judicial district's population. The amendment would provide, however, that the primary concern in making the decision would be on merit.
Jackson said the amendment is based on Arizona law, with the only change being the addition of the word "ethnic." Arizona law, he said, requires only that racial and gender diversity be considered.
The final recommendation approved by the task force is for increasing membership of the judicial nominating commission by four lay members -- two to be appointed by the Senate president pro tempore and two by the speaker of the House.
Currently, six members are appointed by the Oklahoma Bar Association and six by the governor, with the thirteenth commission member appointed by the other 12. …