Unfortunately, the result is a backdoor attack on the Legislature’s attempt to limit frivolous and expensive litigation and to improve our business climate.
It is interesting to note the two dissenting justices — reviewing the exact same facts and legal theories as the majority — reached the opposite conclusion.
This is significant. Judicial philosophy is important.
A clear majority of the court has shown an activist judicial mentality of expanding their role in determining the social, moral and legal norms for our state, rather than allowing the duly-elected representatives of the people to exercise that power.
We should not allow legislating from the judicial bench.
This is one of the reasons the State Chamber of Oklahoma and other concerned organizations and leaders created the Oklahoma Civil Justice Council (OCJC). As last year’s election approached, OCJC noted that many voters wanted to know more about the judges they would see on the judicial retention ballot.
In that regard, OCJC released its inaugural evaluations of the Oklahoma Supreme Court and the Court of Civil Appeals. You can access them by going to okciviljustice.com. These evaluations analyzed cases involving the creation or expansion of liability.
Judges were evaluated only where there was a difference of opinion on the same case and received a rating based on that opinion. The lower the score, the more the judge had voted to expand liability.
We see now that the scoring we published last year has held true. Of the seven justices who voted earlier this month to strike down the major tort reform legislation of 2009, all of them had the lowest scores given.
The two who dissented and showed common sense in their ruling received the highest scores in the evaluation.
Every two years, we consider whether to send the members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives back to work for us. We also vote on half of the Oklahoma Senate. Every four years, we vote for all of our statewide elected officials.
With the Court of Civil Appeals, the Court of Criminal Appeals and the Oklahoma Supreme Court, we only get to vote every six years, and then on only whether they should be retained.
Perhaps it’s time to re-look at the power and authority of our Supreme Court, and indeed, our entire appellate structure of judicial review.
Morgan is president and CEO of the State Chamber of Oklahoma.
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