Much has been said and written, in many locations, about the judicial activism that has been repeatedly exhibited and with much justification by the judges on the federal benches.
Now we have seen just such a blatant example of the same conduct by a majority of judges sitting on the Oklahoma Supreme Court. This was in the recent decision by a 7-2 majority to rule that a monument listing the Ten Commandments could not remain on the grounds of the State Capitol. The reasoning’ stated was a provision in the Oklahoma Constitution which is quoted as prohibiting the use of public money for a purpose that supports religion on state property. This was despite the truth that the monument was entirely paid for by one family, the head of which happens to be my state representative (Dr. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow), as well as personal physician and flight surgeon. The original monument was destroyed by a deranged, anti-Christian with a vehicle and replaced with a duplicate – again paid for by the family.
However, it has occurred to me that at least part of the fault must lie with the statutory system in place for choosing the judges. In my opinion, it is totally incestuous in that when there is a vacancy, five judge candidates are nominated by a committee made up of members of the Oklahoma Bar Association. The governor then is required to nominate from those candidates.
It seems to me that a more fair and proper committee make-up would be one or two members from the bar, one named by each of the legislature houses, and one by the chair of each of the political parties recognized by the election board. This would give the people more of an input in the matter.
As published in the Tulsa Beacon newspaper on July 9, here are names of the governors who appointed these judges and how they voted on the Ten Commandments:
- Gov. George Nigh (1984) appointed Yvonne Kauger who voted against the Ten Commandments.
- Gov. David Walters (1992) appointed Joseph Watt, who voted against Ten Commandments.
- Gov. Frank Keating (2000) appointed James Winchester, who voted against Ten Commandments.
- Gov. Brad Henry (2007) appointed John Reif who voted against Ten Commandments.
- Gov. Brad Henry (2003) appointed James Edmondson, who voted against Ten Commandments.
- Gov. George Nigh (1984) appointed Steven Taylor, who voted against Ten Commandments.
- Gov. Brad Henry (2011) appointed Noma Gurich who voted against Ten Commandments.
- Gov. Brad Henry (2010) appointed Doug Combs who dissented in favor of the Ten Commandments.
- Gov. Brad Henry (2004) appointed Tom Colbert, who dissented in favor of the Ten Commandments.
Subsequent news stories indicated that talk had begun among legislators about the possibility of mounting an impeachment challenge over this as a violation of their oath of office. However, it does not seem to be gaining much impetus as no more has been seen or heard. It is my opinion that this would be unwise, unless the votes were assured in both houses to bring such charges to a successful conclusion. A failed attempt would, I fear, only serve to embolden those judges to further legislate from the bench and render even more, and worse, miscarriages of justice.
In a story on July 16 about Governor Fallin ordering the monument to stay until proposed legislation and/or amendment votes, the retention votes of the following judges in 2014 were listed. These are the judges up for retention in 2016.
- Douglas L. Combs, District 8
- Steven W. Taylor, District 2
- James R. Winchester, District 5.
It is thus recommended a no vote for Taylor and Winchester. Unfortunately for Oklahoma citizens, there has yet to be an appointed judge not retained by a statewide retention vote. Last year, a campaign was mounted to not retain Civil Appeals Judge Jane Wiseman, which drew a high no vote but failed to oust her from office.