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October 1, 2012

Group evaluates Oklahoma Supreme court rulings

MUSKOGEE — A business-backed group that supports limits on how much an injured party can recoup in a civil lawsuit released its inaugural evaluation of Oklahoma’s Supreme Court justices.

The Oklahoma Civil Justice Council evaluated each justice based upon opinions rendered in 145 cases. The cases were selected based upon the potential each might have for expanding or restraining civil liability.

Case evaluations were conducted by the Judicial Evaluation Institute of Washington, D.C., and Sequoyah Information Systems. Justices were ranked based upon the side they joined in each case. Decisions made by those justices who scored the highest, evaluators said, “have had the effect of restraining liability.”

“The Oklahoma Civil Justice Council has been created, in part, to examine the performance of Oklahoma’s Supreme Court. It is vitally important for all Oklahomans to have information about how these cases, which often impact everyone in our state, are decided,” said OCJC President Fred Morgan.

Morgan said the evaluation is intended to educate Oklahoma voters who “have a right to more information before casting their ballot” to retain a justice whose term is up for renewal.

Appellate judges in Oklahoma initially are appointed by the governor to a six-year term. When the term expires, voters decide whether a judge or justice should be retained for an additional term.

Justice James E. Edmondson said that although the evaluation “may inform the public,” he suggested that voters “take it with a grain of salt, if not a full tablespoon.” Expanding or restraining liability “is not an issue that is on our minds when we look at a case,” he said.

“The superficial nature of it is a bit disturbing because it makes a bottom-line evaluation about whether a justice is an individual who favors an expansion of liability or opposes it,” he said. “I know of no justice that has that shallow of a view of our responsibility.”

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