Bench Memos

Oklahomans Want Judicial Elections

Two weeks ago the Oklahoma legislature invited me to testify on the topic of judicial selection reform.  (See my testimony here.)  The state is currently one of twelve that use the so-called “Missouri Plan,” the commission-based method of selecting judges that empowers liberal lawyers to pack courts with judges who share their liberal legal philosophy.  

We have chronicled the terrible impact this method of selection has had on courts across the country, but the situation in Oklahoma seems to have grown especially dire over the last several years. The Oklahoma Supreme Court has, on indefensible grounds, halted laws designed to assist in the prosecution of child rapists, blocked laws designed to make abortion clinics safercrippled tort reform, and ordered removal of a Ten Commandment monument from the state Capitol grounds.  

Oklahoma is a conservative state, so, not surprisingly, the state supreme court’s liberal decisions have galvanized support for reform.  A recent Federalist Society poll shows that nearly 80% of Oklahomans now support a constitutional amendment to replace the current selection process with direct, contested elections in which the people of Oklahoma choose their own judges. Prominent organizations have joined the reform effort at the local and national level, including Oklahomans for LifeAmericans for Prosperity, and my own organization, the Judicial Crisis Network.

But don’t expect the progressive left to stand on the sidelines while Oklahoma’s version of the Missouri Plan is abolished.  Liberal special interests have a vested interest in maintaining control of Oklahoma’s court system and they will fight aggressively to stop reform.  Already, the Soros-funded progressive group Justice at Stake has editorialized against reform.  Expect others to chime in.  And expect them to focus their attention on the members of the Oklahoma legislature who are lawyers, because they have been the primary source of opposition to reform over the years.  In particular, pay close attention to the following legislators:

  • John Paul Jordan (R)
  • Terry O’Donnell (R)
  • Scott Biggs (R)
  • Jon Echols (R)
  • Chris Kannady (R)
  • Randy Grau (R)

Contact your legislators and tell them it is time to bring accountability and transparency to Oklahoma’s judicial selection process.  Tell them to side with the people of Oklahoma, not special interests who want to pack the courts with liberal judges.

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