Oklahoma Legislators Should Cure the Disease, Not Just the Symptoms

The Federalist Society has released the results of a poll of Oklahomans showing overwhelming support for the idea of abandoning the state’s version of the Missouri Plan in favor of contested elections of judges.  The Oklahoman has more:
Oklahomans overwhelmingly prefer electing state appellate judges and justices compared with the existing system of using an independent commission, according to findings of a survey released Tuesday.
The survey of 500 registered Oklahoma voters, conducted by North Star Opinion Research, shows that respondents by a 3-to-1 margin preferred having the appellate judges and justices elected. The poll, with an error rate of 4.4 percent, showed that 74 percent of those taking part in the poll preferred having the judges elected and 22 percent favored the commission.
The poll showed 69 percent of those surveyed would support an amendment to the state constitution that would abandon the existing commission and instead allow voters to elect all appellate judges and justices. It showed 25 percent opposed it.
It also showed that 76 percent of those responding favored term limits for appellate judges and justices while 22 percent opposed them.
The survey was conducted June 17-19, or about two weeks after the Oklahoma Supreme Court tossed out a law favored by Republicans that dealt with how lawsuits are filed, or tort reform.
The issue of selection reform gained some traction last legislative session, when the Oklahoma Senate passed a proposal to adopt a federal style of selection. But it became significantly more interesting a few weeks ago when the Oklahoma supreme court struck down the state’s comprehensive tort-reform law, confirming for everyone who had any doubt that the Missouri Plan basically facilitates capture of courts by trial lawyers who seek to impose their policy agendas from the bench.
The Oklahoma legislature will convene a special session next month to repass its tort-reform law, this time in a form that they hope is immune to legal challenge. I wish them luck, but until they do away with their current method for selecting judges, they will be dealing with the symptoms and not the disease. As these latest polling results show, there is plenty of public support for a serious cure, if local leaders are willing to pursue it.  

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