Oklahoma House Votes Changes to Judicial Selection

The Oklahoma House has voted to approve a proposal to change the way judges are selected, chiefly through revisions to the judicial screening commission process. The measure does not go so far as to adopt judicial elections, as some have advocated, and as Justice at Stake has opposed (see Gavel Grab).

The Associated Press said the version passed by the House would require the Judicial Nominating Commission to submit to the governor a list of every applicant for appellate court seats, as opposed to the names of merely three applicants, as is the law now. The commission could rate applicants on a scale of zero to 10. A committee of House and Senate members would confirm the nominees.

Further details about the legislation are available from Gavel to Gavel, a publication of the National Center for State Courts; it notes that the plan effectively would “overhaul the state’s merit/commission system used to select appellate judges and turn over control to the governor and state legislative leaders.”

Under the plan, according to Gavel to Gavel, “a majority (8/15) of members of the [new] JNC would serve at the pleasure of the governor and legislative leaders; currently JNC members serve fixed terms.”