The Norman Transcript

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April 28, 2013

County judge position faces opposition

NORMAN — Several Cleveland County lawmakers are working hard to pass a law granting the county another district judge position, despite repeated efforts by a Senate colleague to crush the legislation.

Proposed legislation has been sent several times in the past two years to Moore Republican Sen. Anthony Sykes, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Sykes’ latest effort was to block an amendment to Senate Bill 820 that would have authorized a fourth district judge for Cleveland County.

And he succeeded. Sykes has declined to explain why he opposes adding a judge.

Despite Sykes’ opposition, Rep. Bobby Cleveland, R-Slaughterville, is leading the fight to win passage of a statute granting a fourth district judge for Cleveland County.

Tracy Schumacher, Cleveland County’s chief judge, said, “We absolutely, positively have to have another judge.” Schumacher said due to heavy caseloads, judges are having to set civil and divorce cases filed in April on dockets scheduled in late August or September.

“There is no reason why Cleveland County should have further delays because there is a senator blocking it,” Schumacher said. “ This is an injustice to Cleveland County residents.”

Last year, Sykes told fellow Cleveland County lawmakers that he would support the legislation only if it stipulated that the new judge must reside north of Indian Hills Road. Sykes’ senatorial district includes northern Cleveland County.

However, House members say this would set a bad precedent, with senators having too much influence in selecting judges.

Rep. Scott Martin, R-Norman, said he went to Sykes’ office to plead for passage of the bill. Sykes told Martin that he was not convinced Cleveland County needs another judge. Martin is chairman of the House Budget and Appropriations Committee.

Sykes did not return a phone call asking for comment. Typically, the senator does not talk to the news media.

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