The Norman Transcript

Opinion

December 19, 2013

Judicial term limits, selections at issue

NORMAN — In a Norman speech earlier this month, House Speaker T.W. Shannon made the case that Oklahoma’s Supreme Court has become an activist court.

The court, he said, seemed out of touch with Oklahomans. In the past, he has said the court has acted like a “Super Legislature,” derailing reforms that he believed were constitutional and were of benefit to Oklahomans.

“I think it’s time that we explore term limits for our Supreme Court justices,” Mr. Shannon told a civic club Dec. 12 in Norman.

Earlier this year, Shannon had an interim legislative study on judicial selection procedures and the possibility of term limits for Supreme Court and Appellate Court judges. Checks and balances are working in the executive and legislative branches but not in the courts, he has said.

Two rulings this past week show the court’s divided favor and disfavor with lawmakers. When the court upheld the constitutionality of the state’s workers’ compensation law, Shannon and others pushing for selection reform and term limits for the high courts were silent.

But when it struck down legislation lowering the state’s income tax cut and providing funds for Capitol repairs, Shannon and others began cranking out press releases expressing their disappointment and intentions to legislatively right the court’s wrongs.

One judicial reform model that was suggested would follow more of a federal model, allowing the governor to choose judicial nominees, with the judicial nominating commission giving an opinion on the nomination.

The issue will likely come before the legislature in the spring. State judges and Supreme Court justices already are subject to a vote of the people. All are on retention ballots and can be tossed from office just as legislators are voted out.

In these days of social media campaigns, a judge could easily be targeted because of his or her rulings.

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