Gavel Grab

Legislator Will Seek Switch to Judicial Elections in Oklahoma

Oklahoma flagState Rep. Kevin Calvey, who has repeatedly thrashed the Oklahoma Supreme Court over rulings he disagrees with, said he will introduce a measure for elections of state Supreme Court and appeals court judges.

Oklahoma currently has a merit selection system, which is used by more than 30 states to minimize the influence of political pressure on the Supreme Court selection process.

The Associated Press said Calvey has taken issue with court rulings on abortion and on removal of a 10 Commandments marker from the state capitol grounds. Read more

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Oklahoma Court Ruling Involves Custody Case, Same-Sex Parents

OklahomaIn a case involving custody and same-sex parents, the Oklahoma Supreme Court has ruled that a non-biological parent can get a say in her child’s life, according to The Oklahoman.

The ruling was described as a landmark one in several news accounts, and The Associated Press summed it up this way: “A lawsuit involving a same-sex couple and the parenting rights of their child’s non-biological parent received new life Tuesday when the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled it is in the child’s best interest to grant the non-biological parent a hearing to explore custody and visitation rights.”

The Oklahoma court has come under heavy fire in the past over some of its controversial decisions. Other media coverage of the latest ruling includes Tulsa World and Reuters.  There were impeachment threats leveled by elected politicians in 2014 over stays of execution (see Gavel Grab) and this year over a ruling that a Ten Commandments marker was unconstitutional and would have to be removed from the state Capitol grounds (Gavel Grab has background).

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Oklahoma Court Delays Execution in Nationally Watched Case

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals temporarily halted the scheduled execution on Wednesday of Richard Glossip, sentenced to die in a nationally watched case. The delay will allow the court to weigh a further appeal on behalf of Glossip, who was sentenced to death by lethal injection.

Prison officials already had served Glossip his final meal, according to The Washington Post, which said that Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin pledged to respect the court’s decision.

A New York Times editorial published on Wednesday said that a countdown was under way to execute Glossip, “in the face of mounting evidence that he is innocent, as he has argued all along.” Read more

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Editorial: Base OK Judicial Reform Changes on Merit, not Frustration

Oklahoma flagCalls to eliminate Oklahoma’s Judicial Nominating Commission, established after a popular vote in 1967 in order to remove some politics from selecting appellate judges, must be weighed carefully, an editorial in The Oklahoman warns.

The panel screens candidates for judgeships and makes recommendations to the governor for appointment. There has been a flap about a recent case in which the panel did not recommend three finalists for a local judgeship, as the law requires, because it said it found only two who were qualified (see Gavel Grab).

Republican Rep. Kevin Calvey is leading an effort to jettison the commission. He says its “liberal Democrat bias has been clear for years” and its work has resulted in a liberal state Supreme Court. He has called for impeachment of state justices their order to remove a Ten Commandments marker from the capitol grounds and he proposed an interim study on reforming Oklahoma’s judiciary. The newspaper editorial concluded:

“The JNC isn’t perfect, but neither is any other system. We suggest, as we have in the past, that any judicial reform efforts be carefully vetted and that changes be made based on merit, not simply out of frustration over court rulings that lawmakers don’t like.”

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Judicial Selection Reform Gets Scrutiny in Oklahoma

On the heels of a flap about Oklahoma’s Judicial Nominating Commission (see Gavel Grab), a prominent legislator said an interim study of judicial selection reform will be reviewed by the full House of Representatives.

Republican Rep. Randy Grau, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, gave that update to the Edmond Sun.

To learn about Rep. Kevin Calvey, a staunch critic of the state’s courts, urging the interim study, see Gavel Grab. Calvey told the Edmond Sun recently, “Our courts clearly are not in line with the views of the people of Oklahoma. And, there are some problems with the way our judges are selected in Oklahoma that makes it not representative of the people and too beholden to a tiny group of Oklahomans.”

Meanwhile Andrew C. Spiropoulos of the Oklahoma City University School of Law wrote a Journal Record op-ed advocating replacement of “the broken JNC appointment process and corrupting trial court elections” with a federal-style judicial selection system.

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Tiff Over Judicial Nominating Commission List in Oklahoma

The chairman of the Oklahoma Judicial Nominating Commission says the panel provided Gov. Mary Fallin with names of only two finalists for a Pottawatomie County judgeship, instead of three as is required by law, because only two applicants were qualified. Critics have raised questions of partisan politics.

“I’ve heard allegations that the JNC was biased toward Democrats before, but this proves it,” said Republican state Rep. Justin Wood, according to  “And what’s worse, now the JNC appears to have broken the law to perpetuate its bias.” He said two candidates who were eliminated were Republicans, and the recommended finalists were Democrats.

The governor advised the panel it would have to comply with state law, and it agreed to start over. Commission chairman Stephen Beam said the group had acted without regard to politics.

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Another Abortion Law Struck Down by Oklahoma Court

Seal_of_Oklahoma.svgIn Oklahoma, where court rulings against state legislation to restrict abortions have fueled attacks from the legislature, a state judge has tossed out a law restricting medication abortions.

A NewsOK article was headlined, “Oklahoma sees another abortion law fall in court/Oklahoma County District Judge Patricia Parrish struck down the current law, ruling that since it applied specifically to abortion-inducing drugs, it amounted to a ‘special law’ prohibited in the constitution.”

State Rep. Kevin Calvey earlier this year harshly criticized the high court and proposed an interim study on reforming the judiciary (see Gavel Grab). He told NewsOK about the new ruling, “We can blame our extremist liberal state Supreme Court for this latest deadly ruling against babies in Oklahoma.”

Other media coverage included reports from the Associated Press and Tulsa World.

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OK Opinion: Political Attacks Undermine Public Trust in Courts

Oklahoma flagIs an age-old tension between the political branches and the judiciary escalating to a new and dangerous level? In Oklahoma, where several legislators recently called for impeachment of state Supreme Court justices, attorney David Poarch fears that’s the case.

Poarch is president of the Oklahoma Bar Association. In a Norman Transcript op-ed, he labels the impeachment call (after the court had ordered removal of a Ten Commandments marker from the capitol grounds–see Gavel Grab for background) “just one example in a sea of comparable unending rants in response to decisions handed down by our highest courts.” At both the state and national level, he says, the fire of hostility against our courts is fueled by partisan politics. Poarch warns of damaging fallout:

“To all appearances … this historical tension appears to be escalating at an unprecedented pace to a disrespectful level of outright hostility and malevolence. The increasing political attacks on our judges and justices diminish the independence of the judiciary, and at least equally, if not more importantly, the public’s confidence in our system of justice. The distinction between fair criticism of judicial opinions and intimidation and threats directed at judges is an important one.”

Read more

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Legislator: Thumbs Down on OK Judicial Impeachment Proposal

Rep. Cox

Rep. Cox

A Republican legislator, who paused before taking a stand on an Oklahoma controversy over a Ten Commandments marker on the capitol grounds, now has given his opinion. He’s against impeaching state Supreme Court justices who ruled on the marker.

State Rep. Doug Cox said in a Tulsa World opinion that’s he’s against an impeachment proposal but would be open to considering a change to the state Constitution, which was the basis for a recent 7-2 state Supreme Court ruling that ordered removal of the marker from the capitol grounds.

“I will tell you now that I do not want to impeach our Supreme Court justices. I am open to looking at modifying the clause involved in our state constitution so that the Ten Commandments can remain. Would I vote for a change in our state Constitution that would leave the door wide open for anyone to put a monument on the Capitol grounds? I probably would not,” Cox wrote. Read more

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Editorial Scoffs at Impeachment Proposed Over Judicial Ruling

cut4qtcAn editorial in the Stillwater (Ok.) News Press has added to the chorus chiding a small group of legislators calling for the impeachment of seven state Supreme Court justices over a controversial ruling.

Those Supreme Court justices comprised the 7-2 majority in declaring that a granite Ten Commandments marker must be removed from the state Capitol grounds, because it violated the state Constitution.

“The state constitution,” the editorial commented, “allows for the impeachment of the governor, elected officers or Supreme Court justices for ‘willful neglect of duty, corruption in office, habitual drunkenness, incompetence, or any offense involving moral turpitude committed while in office.’ Read more

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