Edmondson said each case is decided based upon the justices’ interpretation of the state constitution and the law as it existed at the time a case is presented. If the evaluation is intended to influence or intimidate the sitting justices, Edmondson said, that effort would fail.
Cathy Christensen, the president of the Oklahoma Bar Association, said the OCJC evaluation appears to be a “simplistic rating system” for what often can be “complicated cases.” She said the OBA plans to launch a website this month that will provide facts that voters need to make an informed decision without having to rely on special interest groups trying to promote an agenda.
“Judicial independence is very important,” Christensen said. “A judge or justice has to be able to decide a case without any fear of retaliation from the public or special interest groups.”
Christensen said the website — www.CourtFacts.org — will introduce to voters the justices and judges whose names will appear on retention ballots to voters and explain judicial merit selection and retention. The site will provide the biographies of each jurist and links to their opinions.
“I think what voters need to look at is the clarity of the opinion and whether it is true to the constitution and the laws as they existed when the case came before the court,” Christensen said. “Our intent in creating Court Facts is to provide voters accurate, unbiased information — just the facts. I trust our voters to make up their own minds.”
Morgan said voters need to know that “judges looking at the very same set of facts with the same rule of law to guide them often rule in differing ways.” He said his organization’s evaluation of the Supreme Court justices “will arm” voters “with the facts” needed to understand why that occurs.