12 Oklahoma judges to appear on judicial retention ballot

Oklahomans will vote Tuesday on whether to retain or dismiss 12 state appellate court judges.
by Randy Ellis Published: November 4, 2012
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Justice Douglas L. Combs, 61, was appointed to the state Supreme Court by Henry and began serving in January 2010. He previously served eight years as a district judge and had also served as a special judge and as an assistant state attorney general.

Oklahoma Court

of Civil Appeals

Judge P. Thomas Thornbrugh, 66, was appointed to the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals by Gov. Mary Fallin in September 2011. Before that appointment, he served 15 years as a district judge.

Judge William C. Hetherington Jr., 65, was appointed to the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals by Henry in November 2009. He has prior judicial experience as both a district judge and special judge.

Judge Kenneth L. Buettner, 62, was appointed to his judicial office by former Gov. Frank Keating, and was sworn in February 26, 1996. He previously worked four years as a captain in the Air Force Judge Advocate General's Corps and 16 years in private practice.

Judge Robert “Bobby” Bell, 45, was appointed to the appellate court in June 2005 by Henry. He previously practiced law in Norman and served as municipal judge in Moore, Blanchard, Noble and Purcell, and as a special municipal judge in Broken Arrow.

Judge E. Bay Mitchell III, 58, was appointed to the court by Keating in 2002. He previously worked as a staff attorney for Judge Carl B. Jones of the Court of Civil Appeals.

Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals

Judge Clancy Smith, 69, was appointed to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals by Henry in September 2010. She has prior experience as a district judge and special judge in Tulsa County.

Judge Arlene Johnson, 72, was appointed to the court in 2005 by Henry and currently serves as its presiding judge. She previously worked as an assistant U.S. attorney for more than 20 years. She also has worked as an assistant district attorney in Oklahoma County and as criminal chief for the Oklahoma attorney general's office.

Judge David B. Lewis, 54, was appointed to the state Court of Criminal Appeals by Henry in August 2005. He was the first black person to serve on the court. Judge Lewis previously served as a district judge for Comanche, Stephens, Jefferson and Cotton counties from 1999-05. He also has prior experience as a Comanche County prosecutor and special judge.

About the term

Six years is the normal term for Oklahoma appellate judges, but four of the judges — Combs, Smith, Thornbrugh and Hetherington — would serve unexpired terms that would end in January 2017.

by Randy Ellis
Capitol Bureau Reporter
For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two...
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DID YOU KNOW?

Court elections

• In Oklahoma, district and associate district judges run for election against other candidates, but appellate judges do not have opponents on the ballot.

• The retention system is designed to remove politics and fundraising from appellate court positions.

• There are nine justices on the Oklahoma Supreme Court, 12 judges on the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals and five members of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. Their names appear on retention ballots on a staggered, rotating basis.

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