Judiciary of Oklahoma

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The Oklahoma Capitol in Oklahoma City was previously the home of the Oklahoma Supreme Court whose Chief Justice is concurrently the administrator-in-chief of the Oklahoma Court System.

The Oklahoma Court System is the judicial system for the U.S. State of Oklahoma. Based in Oklahoma City, the court system is a unified state court system that functions under the Chief Justice of Oklahoma who is its administrator-in-chief.

Under the judiciary, five types of courts function: Courts of Limited Jurisdiction, Courts of General Jurisdiction, an Immediate Appellate Court, Specials Courts, and Courts of Last Resort. Also, the Oklahoma judiciary contains two independent courts.[1][2] The two Courts of Last Resort arrangement exists only in Oklahoma and neighboring Texas.

All judges and justices requiring appointment are appointed by the Governor of Oklahoma. Candidates must first go through a nominating process through the Oklahoma Judicial Nominating Commission, which selects three candidates to submit to the Governor for a single selection to the office.[3]

Administration[edit]

The Oklahoma Supreme Court is charged with the administration of the entire state court system.[4] The court normally exercises this responsibility through the adoption of rules governing the court system and the behavior of attorneys in state courts.[4] The chief justice is the figure in charge of these rules.[5]

Courts[edit]

Under the judiciary, five types of courts function: Courts of Limited Jurisdiction, Courts of General Jurisdiction, an Immediate Appellate Court, Specials Courts, and Courts of Last Resort. Also, the Oklahoma judiciary contains two independent courts.[1][2] The two Courts of Last Resort arrangement exists only in Oklahoma and neighboring Texas.

The Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals are courts of last resort. The Court of Civil Appeals is an intermediate appeals court. The District Courts are courts of general jurisdiction. The Workers’ Compensation Court, Court on Tax Review, and Municipal Courts are special courts with limited jurisdiction. The Court on the Judiciary and the Court of Impeachment are courts that are independent of the administration of the Supreme Court; there is no appeal from these court decisions.

Supreme Court[edit]

The Oklahoma Supreme Court is Oklahoma’s court of last resort in all civil matters and all matters concerning the Oklahoma Constitution. It consists of nine justices appointed by the governor to serve life terms, but unlike U.S. Supreme Court justices, they are subject to an election every six years in which voters choose whether or not to retain them. Each justice must be at least 30 years old, have previously been licensed as an attorney for five years, and have lived for at least one year in the Supreme Court judicial district from which they are selected.[3]

Five of the nine justices are required to affirm, modify, or overturn any ruling of any lower court. Once the Court has reached a decision, one justice is selected to write the court’s opinion. Once published, the opinion becomes the controlling factor in the state’s law surrounding the issue(s) it addresses.[6] This is known as "stare decisis". The justices select from among their members a chief justice and vice chief justice to serve two-year terms.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court is also charged with the administration of the entire state court system.[4] The court normally exercises this responsibility through the adoption of rules governing the court system and the behavior of attorneys in state courts.[4] The chief justice is the figure in charge of these rules.[5]

Court of Criminal Appeals[edit]

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals is the Oklahoma court of last resort involving all criminal matters.[7] The five judges are appointed by the Governor with the judges selecting a Chief Judge at the beginning of each term of court. Like the justices of the Supreme Court, the judges serve for life but must stand for election every six years to retain their position.

Regardless of where the appeal comes from, the Court of Criminal Appeals is always the first court to hear an appeal involving the death sentence.

Whenever there is a dispute involving whether a case falls under the jurisdiction of the Oklahoma Supreme Court or Court of Criminal Appeals, the Supreme Court determines, finally and authoritatively, which of the two courts has jurisdiction.[1]

Court of Civil Appeals[edit]

Because the Supreme Court has neither the time nor the resources to hear all cases brought before it, the legislature created the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals. When a case is brought before the Supreme Court, the justices may choose to send the case to one of the four divisions of the Civil Court of Appeals, of which two are located in Tulsa and two in Oklahoma City.[4] Each division of the court has three judges; they are appointed for life, but they must stand for election every six years to retain their positions.

Two of the three judges may choose to reaffirm, modify, or overturn any ruling of any lower court. However, if the Oklahoma Supreme Court disapproves of the court's ruling, it may review the decision.

District Courts[edit]

The backbone of the Oklahoma judiciary, the district courts, have general jurisdiction over almost all civil and criminal matters within their sphere of influence. Oklahoma has 77 district courts, each with one or more district judges and an associate district judge. The judges are elected, in a nonpartisan manner, to serve a four-year term. In the event of a vacancy in any of the district courts, the governor appoints a judge to serve until the next election. A special judge may be appointed to assist in the event of a heavy caseload.[8]

Oklahoma is divided into nine Judicial Administrative Districts, involving several district courts to assure a well-organized system. From the judges of the district courts, one is selected to serve as the Presiding Judge, who is responsible for the administration of their district. The Presiding Judge is answerable to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

Candidates for district judge must be a practicing lawyer or judge for the past four years and must live in the districts in which they seek election. Associate judges must have been practicing lawyers or judges for the past two years.[9]

Civil appeals are heard by the Oklahoma Supreme Court and criminal appeals are heard by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.[10]

Workers' Compensation Court of Existing Claims[edit]

The Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Court of Existing Claims is a temporary court that hears workers' compensation claims for injuries occurring before February 1, 2014. It replaces the Workers' Compensation Court, which was dissolved by SB1062, codified in 85A O.S. Title 85A creates a new Workers' Compensation Commission, an administrative agency to hear workers' compensation claims arising on or after February 1, 2014.[11] Claims submitted to the Court of Existing Claims are heard by a single judge in either Tulsa or Oklahoma City. A party who disapproves of the judge's ruling may request a hearing en banc, and appeals from such a hearing are heard by the Oklahoma Supreme Court. The court's mandate is scheduled to expire in 2020.[12][13]

Court of Tax Review[edit]

The Oklahoma Court of Tax Review is a special court in the Oklahoma judiciary charged with hearing disputes involving illegal taxes levied by county and city governments. All tax review cases are sent to the Chief Justice of Oklahoma, who then sends the claim to the presiding judge of the administration district from which the claim originated. The presiding judge then appoints three judges to serve as the Court on Tax Review. Appeals from the court are heard by the Oklahoma Supreme Court.[14]

Municipal Courts[edit]

With the exception of the Municipal Court of Oklahoma City and the Municipal Court of Tulsa, the Municipal Courts are courts of no record that operate under the administration of the Supreme Court but are not part of the state court system.[2] The judges, unlike any other judge, are appointed directly by the mayors of Oklahoma's cities. The courts exist to oversee the administration of justice within cities and have jurisdiction only over the violations of city ordinances, which are criminal in nature. They have no civil jurisdiction. Appeals from Municipal Courts are heard by District Courts.

Court on the Judiciary[edit]

One of the two independent courts in the Oklahoma Judiciary, the Oklahoma Court on the Judiciary is the court responsible for removing judges from their position if they have committed illegal acts. One of three such courts in the nation (the others are in Texas and Alabama), the Court on the Judiciary insures that other courts best administer justice.

Any judge (aside from Supreme Court justices) may be forcefully removed from office if found guilty of gross neglect of duty, corruption in office, habitual drunkenness, commission while in office of any offense involving moral turpitude, gross partiality in office, oppression in office, or other grounds as specified by the legislature. Forced retirement may occur if the court finds the judge in question to be mentally or physically incapable to perform his job. No other penalties may be imposed by this court, although other courts can hear other charges.[15]

The Court on the Judiciary consists of a nine-member Trial Division and a five-member Appellate Division.[16] The court’s jurisdiction may be called into force by the Governor, Attorney General, Oklahoma Supreme Court, the Oklahoma Bar Association, or by the House of Representatives. Also, private citizens can file a formal complaint against a judge to be heard by the Oklahoma Council of Judicial Complaints. It the complaint is approved, the case is heard by the Trial Division of the Court.[17]

All cases brought before the Court are heard by the Trial Division, and any appeals from it are heard by the Appellate Divisions.[18] There are no appeals from the Appellate Division’s decisions, and not even the Oklahoma Supreme Court may change its rulings.[19]

Court of Impeachment[edit]

The second independent court in the Oklahoma Judiciary is the Oklahoma Court of Impeachment, which is the Senate sitting. Impeachment charges are brought by the House of Representatives, and they are heard by the Senate, with the Chief Justice of Oklahoma presiding, unless the Chief Justice or any member of the Oklahoma Supreme Court is charged, in which case the Senate shall select one of its own members to preside.[20]

Impeachment charges may only be brought against the Governor and all other statewide elected state officials (including the Oklahoma Supreme Court Justices) for willful neglect of duty, corruption in office, habitual drunkenness, incompetency, or any offense involving moral turpitude committed while in office. An impeached official is suspended from duty until the conclusion of the impeachment process. Should the impeachment fail, the officer in question returns to his duties. However, if the impeachment is successful and the defendant found guilty, he is removed from office.[21]

Officers[edit]

All judges and justices requiring appointment are appointed by the Governor of Oklahoma. Candidates must first go through a nominating process through the Oklahoma Judicial Nominating Commission, which selects three candidates to submit to the Governor for a single selection to the office.[3]

Composition[edit]

Appellate Courts[edit]

Supreme Court

Seat Justice Appointed by Term start Succeeded
1 M. John Kane IV Kevin Stitt 2019 John Reif
2 Dustin Rowe Kevin Stitt 2019 Patrick Wyrick
3 Noma Gurich Brad Henry 2011 Marian P. Opala
4 Yvonne Kauger George Nigh 1984 Ralph B. Hodges
5 James R. Winchester Frank Keating 2000 Alma Wilson
6 Dana Kuehn Kevin Stitt 2021 Tom Colbert
7 James E. Edmondson Brad Henry 2003 Hardy Summers
8 Doug Combs Brad Henry 2010 Rudolph Hargrave
9 Richard Darby Mary Fallin 2018 Joseph M. Watt

Court of Criminal Appeals

Seat Judge Appointed by Term start Succeeded
1 Dana Kuehn Mary Fallin 2017 Clancey Smith
2 Robert L. Hudson Mary Fallin 2015 Charles Johnson
3 Gary L. Lumpkin Henry Bellmon 1989
4 Scott Rowland Mary Fallin 2017 Arlene Johnson
5 David B. Lewis Brad Henry 2005

Court of Civil Appeals

Judge Appointed by Term start Succeeded
Trevor Pemberton Kevin Stitt 2020 Larry Joplin
Kenneth L. Buettner Frank Keating 1996
Robert D. Bell Brad Henry 2005 Carl Jones
Deborah Barnes Brad Henry 2008
John F. Fischer Brad Henry 2007
Jane P. Wiseman Brad Henry 2005 Joe C. Taylor
E. Bay Mitchell Frank Keating 2002 James P. Garrett
Barbara Swinton Mary Fallin 2016 William Hetherington
Brian Jack Goree Mary Fallin 2012 Carol M. Hansen
Gregory Blackwell Kevin Stitt 2021 P. Thomas Thornbrugh
W. Keith Rapp George Nigh 1984
Stacie Hixon Kevin Stitt 2020 Jerry L. Goodman

Court of Military Appeals

Seat Judge Appointed by Term start Succeeded
1 Daniel G. Webber Kevin Stitt 2020
2 Michelle L. Keely Kevin Stitt 2020
3 TBD

Trial Courts[edit]

District 1[edit]

Beaver, Cimarron, Harper, Texas Counties

Judge Position County Appointed by Term start Succeeded
Jon Parsley District Judge At-Large Mary Fallin 2014
Christine Marie Larson Assoc. District Judge Cimarron Kevin Stitt 2019
Ryan D. Reddick Assoc. District Judge Beaver Mary Fallin 2011 Gerald Riffe
Aric Allley Assoc. District Judge Harper Election 2015
Clark Jett Assoc. District Judge Texas Mary Fallin 2012 Ryan D. Reddick

District 2[edit]

Beckham, Custer, Ellis, Roger Mills, Washita Counties

Judge Position County Appointed by Term start Succeeded
Jill Carpenter Weedon District Judge At-Large Election 2019
Michelle Kirby Roper Assoc. District Judge Beckham Election 2015
Donna Dirickson Assoc. District Judge Custer Election 2019 Jill Carpenter Weedon
Laurie Hays Assoc. District Judge Ellis Election 2015
Pat VerSteeg Assoc. District Judge Roger Mills Brad Henry 2008
Christopher Kelly Assoc. District Judge Washita Election 2006

District 3[edit]

Greer, Harmon, Jackson, Kiowa, Tillman Counties

Judge Position County Appointed by Term start Succeeded
Brad Leverett District Judge At-Large Election 2019
Eric Yarborough Assoc. District Judge Greer Election 2015
Mike Warren Assoc. District Judge Harmon
Clark Huey Assoc. District Judge Jackson
Rick Marsh Assoc. District Judge Kiowa
Brad Benson Assoc. District Judge Tillman

District 4[edit]

District 5[edit]

District 6[edit]

District 7[edit]

Oklahoma County

Judge Position County Appointed by Term start Succeeded
Don Andrews District Judge Oklahoma Election 2015
Kristina Krikpatrick District Judge Oklahoma Kevin Stitt 2021 Kendra Coleman
Heather Coyle District Judge Oklahoma Election 2019
Ray Elliott District Judge Oklahoma Frank Keating 1999
Vacant District Judge Oklahoma Kevin Stitt 2021 Timothy Henderson
Natalie Mai District Judge Oklahoma Election 2019
Richard Ogden District Judge Oklahoma Mary Fallin 2017 Barbara Swinton
Amy Palumbo District Judge Oklahoma Election 2019 Howard Haralson
Kaitlyn Allen District Judge Oklahoma Kevin Stitt 2021 Thomas E. Prince
Susan Stallings District Judge Oklahoma Election 2019 Bill Graves
Sheila Stinson District Judge Oklahoma Kevin Stitt 2020 Lisa Davis
Kenneth Stoner District Judge Oklahoma Mary Fallin 2017 Bryan C. Dixon
Aletia Haynes Timmons District Judge Oklahoma Election 2015
Cindy Truong District Judge Oklahoma Election 2011
Anthony L. Bonner, Jr District Judge Oklahoma Kevin Stitt 2021 Trevor Pemberton
Richard Kirby Assoc. District Judge Oklahoma Election 2007

District 8[edit]

Kay and Noble Counties

Judge Position County Appointed by Term start Succeeded
Lee Turner District Judge At-Large Election 2015 DW Boyd
David Bandy Assoc. District Judge Kay Election 2015
Nikki Leach Assoc. District Judge Noble Mary Fallin 2014 Dan Allen

District 9[edit]

Payne and Logan Counties

Judge Position County Appointed by Term start Succeeded
Phillip Corley District Judge At-Large Election 2011
Louis Duel Assoc. District Judge Logan Election 2011
Stephen Kistler Assoc. District Judge Payne Brad Henry 2008

District 10[edit]

Osage County

Judge Position County Appointed by Term start Succeeded
Stuart Tate District Judge Osage Kevin Stitt 2020 M. John Kane IV
Burl Estes Assoc. District Judge Osage Kevin Stitt 2021 Stuart Tate

District 11[edit]

Nowata and Washington Counties

Judge Position County Appointed by Term start Succeeded
Linda Thomas District Judge At-Large Election 2019
Carl Gibson Assoc. District Judge Nowata Election 2011
Russell Vaclaw Assoc. District Judge Washington Election 2007

District 12[edit]

Craig, Mayes, and Rogers Counties

Judge Position County Appointed by Term start Succeeded
Sheila Condren District Judge Rogers Election 2015
Stephen Pazzo District Judge Rogers Election 2015
Shawn Taylor District Judge Mayes Brad Henry 2009
Joseph Gardner Assoc. District Judge Craig Election
Rebecca Gore Assoc. District Judge Mayes Election
Vacant Assoc. District Judge Rogers Kevin Stitt 2021 Kassie McCoy

District 13[edit]

District 14[edit]

Pawnee, Tulsa Counties

Judge Position County Appointed by Term start Succeeded
Daman H. Cantrell District Judge Tulsa Election 2007
Martha Rupp Carter District Judge Tulsa Election 2019
Douglas Drummond District Judge Tulsa Election 2015
Kurt G. Glassco District Judge Tulsa Brad Henry 2009
Kelly Greenough District Judge Tulsa Mary Fallin 2016
Sharon Holmes District Judge Tulsa Election 2015
William D. LaFortune District Judge Tulsa Election 2015
Dawn Moody District Judge Tulsa Election 2019
William J. Musseman District Judge Tulsa Election 2011
Rebecca Nightingale District Judge Tulsa Election 2003
Tracy Priddy District Judge Tulsa Election 2019 James Caputo
Caroline Wall District Judge Tulsa Election 2011
James Huber District Judge Tulsa Kevin Stitt 2020 Linda Morrissey
Michelle L. Bodine-Keely District Judge Tulsa Kevin Stitt 2020 Jefferson Sellers
Patrick Pickerill Assoc. District Judge Pawnee Mary Fallin 2013
Clifford Smith Assoc. District Judge Tulsa Election 2015

District 15[edit]

Adair, Cherokee, Muskogee, Sequoyah, Wagoner Counties

Judge Position County Appointed by Term start Succeeded
Timothy King District Judge Muskogee Kevin Stitt 2019 Mike Norman
Douglas Kirkley District Judge Wagoner Election 2019 Darrel Sheppard
Bret Smith District Judge Muskogee Election 2019 Thomas Alford
Jeff Payton District Judge Adair Election 2007
Elizabeth Brown Assoc. District Judge Adair Election 2003
Joshua King Assoc. District Judge Cherokee Election 2019 Mark Dobbins
Norman Thygesen Assoc. District Judge Muskogee Brad Henry 2004 Thomas Alford
Kyle Waters Assoc. District Judge Sequoyah Election 2015
Dennis Shook Assoc. District Judge Wagoner Brad Henry 2010 Darrel Sheppard

District 16[edit]

District 17[edit]

District 18[edit]

McIntosh, Pittsburg Counties

Judge Position County Appointed by Term start Succeeded
Mike Hogan District Judge At-large Election 2019 James Bland
Brendon Bridges Assoc. District Judge McIntosh Election 2019 James Pratt
Tim Mills Assoc. District Judge Pittsburg Election 2015

District 19[edit]

District 20[edit]

District 21[edit]

District 22[edit]

District 23[edit]

District 24[edit]

District 25[edit]

District 26[edit]

Canadian County

Judge Position County Appointed by Term start Succeeded
Paul Hesse District Judge Canadian Mary Fallin 2017
Jack McCurdy District Judge Canadian Election 2019
Bob Hughey Assoc. District Judge Canadian Brad Henry 2008

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Oklahoma State Court Network, "The Oklahoma Appellate Courts" (accessed April 21, 2010).
  2. ^ a b c Oklahoma Legislature Website. "Okla Const. art. VII, § 1". Archived from the original on 2007-04-22.
  3. ^ a b c Oklahoma State Court Network, "Justices of the Oklahoma Supreme Court" (accessed April 21, 2010).
  4. ^ a b c d e Stephens, Jerry E., "Judiciary," Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture Archived 2010-05-31 at the Wayback Machine (accessed June 23, 2010).
  5. ^ a b Oklahoma State Court Network, The Supreme Court and the Judicial System" (accessed April 21, 2010).
  6. ^ Oklahoma Legislature Website. "Okla Const. art. VII, § 5". Archived from the original on 2007-04-22.
  7. ^ Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, "OCCA" (accessed April 21, 2010).
  8. ^ Oklahoma Legislature Website. "Okla Const. art. VII, § 9". Archived from the original on 2007-07-29.
  9. ^ Oklahoma Legislature Website. "Okla Const. art. VII, § 8". Archived from the original on 2006-12-09.
  10. ^ Oklahoma State Court Network, "Judges of the District Court" (accessed April 21, 2010).
  11. ^ http://www.oscn.net/applications/oscn/DeliverDocument.asp?CiteID=471431
  12. ^ http://www.oscn.net/applications/oscn/DeliverDocument.asp?CiteID=471593
  13. ^ Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Court, "About the Court Archived 2010-04-13 at the Wayback Machine" (accessed April 21, 2010).
  14. ^ Oklahoma Legislature Website, Okla. Stat. tit. 68, § 3024 Archived 2013-04-11 at the Wayback Machine (accessed June 23, 2010).
  15. ^ Oklahoma Legislature Website. "Okla Const. art. VIIA, § 1". Archived from the original on 2007-06-25.
  16. ^ Oklahoma Legislature Website. "Okla Const. art. VIIA, § 2". Archived from the original on 2007-06-25.
  17. ^ Oklahoma Legislature Website. "Okla Const. art. VIIA, § 4". Archived from the original on 2006-12-10.
  18. ^ Oklahoma Legislature Website. "Okla Const. art. VIIA, § 5". Archived from the original on 2007-04-22.
  19. ^ Oklahoma Legislature Website. "Okla Const. art. VIIA, § 7". Archived from the original on 2007-06-25.
  20. ^ Oklahoma Legislature Website. "Okla Const. art. VIII, § 3". Archived from the original on 2007-04-22.
  21. ^ Oklahoma Legislature Website. "Okla Const. art. VIII, § 1". Archived from the original on 2007-04-22.