The Norman Transcript

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April 28, 2013

County judge position faces opposition

(Continued)

NORMAN —

Adding another judge to Cleveland County would not cost taxpayers any more money, Cleveland said, but only if the Legislature acts quickly.

Cleveland said that if the Legislature does not act in the last few weeks of the session, the chance for Cleveland County to gain a seat will be lost.

Currently, it costs taxpayers about $300,000 for a judge post, which includes salaries for a court reporter and bailiff.

A district judge earns an annual salary of $124,373. An associate judge receives $114,713, and a special judge $105,053. Their pay has remained unchanged since 2008.

If the judicial move is not made, Seminole County voters will be casting ballots to elect a second district judge. As long as the position has been designated by state law, the county will have to call an election to fill that post.

It is up to lawmakers to change judicial districts.

At the start of the session, Rep. Aaron Stiles, R-Norman, introduced a bill to move a judge post from Seminole County to Cleveland County. But the measure failed to gain traction when it went to Sykes’ Senate Judicial Committee.

A year ago, Stiles proposed the same legislation. Gov. Mary Fallin delayed filling the Seminole County post, thinking that the Legislature would make the move.

At the time, Oklahoma Chief Justice Steven Taylor pointed out to a legislative committee the population disparity between the two counties, while it is up to the Legislature to make such changes.

Stiles noted that there is a judge for more than 28,000 residents in Cleveland County. In Seminole County, there is a judge per 6,100 residents.

Cleveland County judges represent an average 28,122 residents, based on figures compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau Population Estimates for 2005.

This compares to Oklahoma County having a judge per 20,134 residents, and Tulsa County with 17,876.

Rep. Cleveland noted that the disparity among the three largest counties has grown even more since 2005, because of population gains in Cleveland County.

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