The Norman Transcript

May 24, 2013

House approves new county judge

By Mick Hinton
The Norman Transcript

OKLAHOMA CITY — Cleveland County is due to get another district judge seat authorized very soon after state representatives approved 78 to 9 on Wednesday the legislation to accomplish such a feat.

Earlier in the week, the state Senate had handily approved the change, which now goes to the governor for final approval.

Last year, Gov. Mary Fallin anticipated that the Legislature would authorize transferring a vacant judge seat in Seminole County to Cleveland County where judges have much higher caseloads.

For that reason, she did not fill the vacancy in Seminole County.

Cleveland County Chief District Judge Tracy Schumacher heralded the move, noting that cases scheduled in April could not be heard until August or September, due to such heavy case dockets.

The action culminates two years of effort to put together legislation to transfer a judge post to Cleveland County, which requires legislative approval.

It was state Rep. Bobby Cleveland, R-Slaughterville who pressed the Legislature this session to reconsider the matter after it had failed to get a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this session.

Cleveland managed to get an amendment attached to another bill, resurrecting the effort to move the district judge post.

The lawmaker serving his first term said Wednesday that accomplishing the switch this session was the most important thing he had been able to do all session.

The measure had run into trouble when Sen. Anthony Sykes, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, declined to allow a hearing early in the session.

A similar bill ran into trouble during the 2012 session when it did not receive a hearing in Sykes’committee.

The earlier bill was sponsored last session by state Rep. Aaron Stiles, R-Norman, in 2012.

After apparent negotiations behind closed doors failed, Sykes agreed to approve such a bill for a judge, provided some modifications were made, according to lawmakers.

Sykes said the position must be filled by a person residing in Cleveland County. He said that the post needed to be voted on by the constituents, rather than filled by someone appointed by the governor.