NORMAN — Legislative leaders in both houses pledged Tuesday that securing passage of a bill adding a district judge for Cleveland County is a done deal.
The measure was signed off on Tuesday by members of a joint House-Senate committee and now returns to each house for final consideration.
Both Sen. Anthony Sykes and Rep. Scott Martin announced Tuesday that a compromise has been reached in time to get Senate Bill 820 passed before adjournment later this month.
Cleveland County Chief District Judge Tracy Schumacher hailed the announcement Tuesday.
“We welcome this decision with open arms,” said Schumacher, noting that litigants in civil and divorce cases have repeatedly faced trial delays due to judges’ lengthy dockets. Cases filed in April were not docketed for hearing before a judge until August or September.
Passage will give Cleveland County another district judge elected by voters in three counties comprising Judicial District 21. There would be a total of five district judges for Cleveland, McClain and Garvin counties. The bill stipulates that the new judge would have to reside in Cleveland County to be eligible for the post.
Schumacher and others questioned earlier why a single senator was able to block passage of the bill by denying a hearing of the measure before the Senate Judicial Committee, which he chairs.
But in a prepared statement Tuesday, Sykes indicated it was he who had championed the bill all along.
“I am happy that the people will be making the decision,” Sykes said in a prepared statement. “The prior versions that contained the effective date of January 2015 were unacceptable.”
The bill in its latest form states that the new Cleveland County judge will be elected in 2014.
Sykes opposed prior versions calling for the post to be filled administratively by the governor the first time around, rather than calling an election. Sykes noted that the county could get a judge quicker by going the elective route.