Vacancy on the Oklahoma Supreme Court as Watt retires

Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Joseph Watt will retire at the end of this year.

Watt, justice for the 9th Supreme Court Judicial District, said his retiement will take effect Dec. 31.

Watt, of Altus, began his judicial service in 1985, when he was appointed special district judge for Jackson County. He was elected associated district judge for Jackson County in 1986.

In 1991, then-Gov. David Walters named Watt as his general counsel. He was appointed by Walters to the Oklahoma Supreme Court on May 17, 1992, and is in his 26th year of service on the high court. He served two terms as chief justice, from 2003 until 2007.

“Having spent almost half of my entire life serving in the judicial branch of government, the past 25 1/2 years on the Supreme Court have been the most rewarding of my entire life,” Watt said. “As the new year dawns, I look forward to beginning the next chapter in my life spending more quality time with my grandchildren, traveling with my wife, Cathy, and taking active retired status beginning Jan. 1, 2018.”

Watt, along with the rest of the liberal Oklahoma Supreme Court, has consistently ruled against laws against abortion and for religious liberty (including the public display of the Ten Commandments). Watt helped stop initiative petitions against abortion and the taxpayer bill of rights.

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.

“I wish him the best in his retirement and want to thank his wife and family, too, for their sacrifice and service to our state,” said Gov. Mary Fallin.

Watt earned a bachelor’s degree in history/government from Texas Tech University and a doctor of jurisprudence from The University of Texas Law School. In 1973, he moved to Altus, where he worked in private law practice and served as Altus city prosecutor until 1985.

The Judicial Nominating Commission will accept applications for nominees to the court. The commission reviews the applications and submits three nominees to the governor. The governor must pick one of the three or restart the process.

At the time of appointment, applicants must be 30 or older, have been a qualified elector in the 9th 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 9th Judicial District consists of Harmon, Greer, Kiowa, Caddo, Canadian, Comanche (Lawton), Jackson, Tillman and Cotton counties.