Justice Steven Taylor to retire

Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Steven Taylor sent a letter to Gov. Mary Fallin stating his intention to retire December 31.

Taylor would have appeared on the November 8 ballot for a retention vote. Justices James Winchester and Douglas Combs are up for retention this year.

“It has been my honor to serve this great state,” Taylor wrote, “and my hope is that I leave a legacy of a firm dedication to the rule of law.”

Taylor, who has served on the bench for nearly 33 years, said wants to spend more time with Mary, his wife of 38 years. He said he will remain active in his civic and volunteer activities.

“Justice Taylor has served the state well in multiple levels of the judiciary for more than three decades,” said Fallin.

Taylor and the other eight members of the liberal Oklahoma Supreme Court have been criticized for controversial votes on pro-life laws, placement of a Ten Commandments monument on the State Capitol grounds and the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.

Taylor was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2004 by ex-Gov. Brad Henry, a liberal Democrat. He served as chief justice from 2011 until 2013.

Before his appointment to the Supreme Court, Taylor spent more than 20 years as a trial judge in various state courts. He conducted more than 500 jury trials and presided over the trial of convicted Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols.  Taylor’s judicial career started in 1984 when then-Gov. George Nigh, a liberal Democrat, named him associate district judge for Pittsburg County. In 1994, he was elected district judge of the 18th Judicial District. In 1997, he was elected presiding judge of the 10-county East-Central Judicial Administrative District.

Taylor joined the United States Marine Corps in 1970 and served on active duty from 1974 until 1978. He was promoted to the rank of major.

After his service in the Marines, Taylor practiced law in McAlester from 1978 until 1984. He was elected in 1980 to the McAlester City Council and in 1982 was elected mayor of McAlester.

Supreme Court justices serve on the court as long as they are able and must appear on the ballot and be retained by voters every six years, according to state statute. The Judicial Nominating Commission will accept applications for nominees to the court. The commission reviews the applications and submits three nominees to the governor.

At the time of appointment, applicants must be 30 or older, have been a qualified elector in the 2nd Supreme Court Judicial District for at least one year immediately prior to the date of appointment, and have been a licensed practicing attorney or judge of a court of record, or both, in Oklahoma for five years preceding the appointment.

The 2nd Judicial District consists of McIntosh, Sequoyah, Pittsburg, Haskell, Latimer, Le Flore, Johnston, Atoka, Pushmataha, Marshall, Bryan, Choctaw and McCurtain counties.