should remember that our current system of judicial retention was
adopted by Oklahomans in response to attorney bribery scandals involving
the state Supreme Court. Oklahomans overwhelmingly voted to restore the
integrity of the court through accountability by judicial retention
Since then, no justice or judge up for
retention has been defeated, despite countless voters going to the polls
and blindly voting “yes” without any information to better guide their
For decades, lawyers have completely
dominated the judicial selection and election process. This year, the
State Chamber-sponsored Oklahoma Civil Justice Council (OCJC) published a
review of cases decided by the Supreme Court and Civil Court of Appeals
and asked a simple question: “Does this case expand civil liability for
Oklahoma’s citizens, and if so, did the judges’ ruling on the exact
same case differ in their interpretation of the law?” This is similarly
done in many other states.
OCJC gathered the
information and posted it on our website for voters. This was an
informational campaign that did not urge Oklahomans to vote one way or
Threatened by these efforts, trial lawyers raised more than $400,000 in a
mere three weeks to fund an aggressive campaign to “Vote Yes for Fair
and Impartial Judges.”
agree we want fair and impartial judges, but attorneys, who have had
cases before these same judges and justices, raising money to keep these
judges on the bench — is that the type of accountability Oklahomans
voted for in 1967?
A democracy only functions properly when the electorate is well informed.
fact, the Oklahoma Bar Association, in response to OCJC, for the first
time started its own judicial website to provide more information to the
public. It is time for every voter, not just trial lawyers, to have
knowledge of the actions of our highest courts.
is important to note that it is the lawyers crying foul, not judges or
justices. Supreme Court Justice James Edmondson commented on the OCJC
rankings: “It’s a good idea to get information out there for the
citizenry, especially for the people who plan on voting. It’s a
well-presented and well-balanced exposition of the matters that seem to
be of concern to them and probably many others.”
benefits no one but trial lawyers who have historically dominated
judicial selection and elections to keep the voting public in the dark.
—Fred Morgan, Oklahoma City
Morgan is president and CEO of the State Chamber of Oklahoma.