Angry Tirade Becomes Focus of Selection Debate

According to the Tulsa World, an “angry tirade” made last year by a state lawmaker from Oklahoma has become the focus of recent efforts to highlight the partisan motivations behind Republican criticism of the way Supreme Court justices are appointed.

Rep. Kevin Calvey, who recently filed a bill to change the selection system for justices and appellate court judges to judicial elections, took to the House floor last April to protest against the Supreme Court’s abortion rulings. “If I were not a Christian and didn’t have a prohibition against suicide, I’d walk across the street, douse myself in gasoline and set myself on fire to protest the evil that is going on over there (at the state Supreme Court),” the newspaper quotes him as saying.

The Tulsa World reports that in reference to Calvey’s threat of self-immolation, ex-Oklahoma Bar Association President Cathy Christensen handed out boxes of matches at a meeting earlier this month and urged others to deliver some to Calvey himself. Christensen said that she used the matches to draw attention to the nature of the arguments put forward by Calvey and others for changing the selection system. According to the article, she said that opponents of the bill want to “protect the integrity of the Supreme Court, which as the third branch of state government must act independently of the legislative and executive branches.”

The article goes on to note that the House Speaker Jeff Hickman has temporarily set aside Calvey’s bill for one of his own. Critics of Hickman’s bill say that it would significantly reduce the power of the state’s Judicial Nominating Commission (see Gavel Grab) and current OBA President John Williams is reportedly worried it would sideline its members, turning them into little more than a “board of clerks.”