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October 14, 2012

Voter education key to judicial retention ballot

NORMAN — Justices and appellate court judges appear on the ballot in staggered six-year terms.

This year’s election allows voters the opportunity to retain four Supreme Court justices and seven appellate court judges. Judges are screened by the Judicial Nominating Commission and appointed by Oklahoma governors in a process known as judicial merit selection.

Oklahomans may face uncertainty about the judicial retention ballot they will encounter when they enter the voting booth Nov. 6.

The state bar association has introduced www.CourtFacts.org, a website designed to explain how the merit retention process works while providing background information about the justices and judges on this year’s merit retention ballot.

 The website features complete biographies and photos of the four state Supreme Court justices and seven appellate judges on the retention ballot. Voters will also be able to access court cases and legal opinions authored by those judges and justices.

 The website also details the state’s judicial selection process for appellate justices and judges, in which a nonpartisan 15-member Judicial Nominating Commission investigates, interviews and evaluates applicants for judicial office. The commission submits the names of three highly qualified applicants for to the governor, who makes the final selection. Justices and judges are retained in office “on merit” by citizen vote in nonpartisan, noncontested elections by retention ballot. Those who receive approval from a majority of the voters may continue in office for another six-year term.

The website will be accessible through the Nov. 6 election and is planned to be a continuing educational outreach opportunity for the bar association.

The 17,000-member Oklahoma Bar Association, headquartered in Oklahoma City, was created by the Oklahoma Supreme Court to advance the administration of justice and to foster and maintain learning, integrity, competence, public service and high standards of conduct among Oklahoma’s legal community.

Source: www.CourtFacts.org

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