By Mick Hinton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Three Cleveland County attorneys Thad Balkman, Blaine Nice and Steve Stice have been named finalists to fill the Cleveland County district judge post vacated by longtime district judge Tom Lucas, who retired in August.
The nominees’ names were forwarded Tuesday to Gov. Mary Fallin, who has 60 days to fill the vacancies.
Balkman is a former state representative who has served as a lobbyist and private attorney. Stice is serving as a special judge for Cleveland County. Nice spent almost 25 years practicing law as a municipal attorney for the city of Norman before joining a private law firm.
The Oklahoma Judicial Nominating Commission interviewed candidates throughout the day Tuesday and announced their choices late that afternoon.
The commission also selected finalists to fill a Garvin County associate judge post that became vacant when John Blake retired. Judicial District 21 includes Cleveland, Garvin and McClain counties.
The three finalists, who all live in Pauls Valley, are Steven Kendall, Kristin Jarman and Ryan Rennie.
Tammy Reaves, state coordinator for the judicial nominating commission, forwarded the finalists’ names to the governor. Those selected by Fallin will serve until fall 2014, when an election will be called to name the judges to full four-year terms.
Prompted by an Oklahoma Supreme Court scandal in the early 1960s, the Oklahoma Judicial Nominating Commission went into operation in 1969.
In the mid-1960s, former state Supreme Court justice N.S. Corn made an 84-page sworn statement detailing his involvement in bribery and implicating other justices.
Creation of the nominating commission occurred in 1967 by an amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution. The intent was to make the selection of judges as free from partisan influence as possible.
Others seeking the Cleveland County district judge post were attorneys David Batton, Jeff Bryant, Cheryl Clayton, Charles Douglas, Robert Don Gifford, Laura Shaeffer and Leasa Stewart. Batton also applied for the associate judge position.