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State of Oklahoma

Judicial Selection in the States: Oklahoma

Overview

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A constitutional amendment discussed here and here to give Delaware s governor and senate more time to consider judicial nominations cleared its final hurdle. With...

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A plan discussed here to create publicly funded public forums to hear from candidates for Montana s non-partisan Supreme Court races is dead for the...

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A constitutional amendment discussed here to give Delaware s governor and senate more time to consider judicial nominations cleared the Senate last week. With House...

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Courtesy of the Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of...

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Oklahoma is one of only two states that has two courts of last resort--the supreme court has jurisdiction over appeals of all civil matters, and the court of criminal appeals hears all criminal appeals. The court of civil appeals is an intermediate appellate court, and the district court is the trial court of general jurisdiction. Oklahoma has a bifurcated system of judicial selection. Appellate court judges are chosen through merit selection, and trial court judges are chosen in nonpartisan elections.

Oklahoma judges were originally chosen in partisan elections. The impetus for change came in the mid-1960s, when one Oklahoma supreme court justice was convicted on bribery charges and another was impeached and removed from office. A third justice was already serving time in federal prison for income tax evasion. Described by one journalist as "one of the blackest marks ever on state government," these events led to two constitutional amendments aimed at insulating judicial selection from direct partisan politics. Elections for district court judges were changed from partisan to nonpartisan contests, and merit selection was adopted for appellate court judges and to fill interim vacancies on the district court.