Senate OKs judicial reform

The Oklahoma Senate approved a handful of judicial reform bills, including measures that would change the way state judges are appointed.

Sen. Anthony Sykes, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, offered several of the judicial reform measures.

“Failing to enact judicial reforms continues to put Oklahoma at the mercy of a system that gives too much power to a select group of trial lawyers instead of the duly elected representatives of the people. The governor and members of the Legislature are immediately accountable to the people for the decisions they make,” said Sykes, R-Moore.

Among the bills approved by the Senate were:

  • SB 708 (Sykes) requires a district judge to have served as lead counsel in at least three jury trials before being elected or appointed to serve on the bench.
  • SJR 43 (Sykes) would allow voters to decide whether to amend the judicial appointment process to model the federal system. Under this proposal, the governor would nominate candidates to fill judicial vacancies and the Oklahoma Senate would confirm or deny the governor’s appointment. The Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) would rate the governor’s judicial nominees as either “qualified” or “not qualified.”
  • SJR 44 (Sykes) would allow voters to decide whether to amend the Constitution to modify the judicial nominating process. Under this proposal, the JNC would provide the governor with five qualified nominees to fill a judicial vacancy, instead of the current recommendation of three nominees. The governor would be allowed to reject those nominees and request five new nominees. The governor would then select one nominee, whose name would be forwarded to the Oklahoma Senate for confirmation.
  • SB 213 (Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow) would change the boundaries of Oklahoma Supreme Court judicial districts to correspond with the number of congressional districts in Oklahoma plus adding at-large positions.