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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Oklahomans will vote Tuesday on whether to retain or dismiss 12 state appellate court judges.

Four state Supreme Court justices, three judges on the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals and five judges on the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals will be on the ballot this year.

Oklahomans will be asked to vote “yes” or “no” on whether to allow each judge to remain in office.

A majority of “yes” votes is required for the judges to keep their jobs.

If voters were to reject a judge, the governor would appoint a successor, choosing from a list of names provided by the state's Judicial Nominating Commission.

Oklahoma voters have never rejected a judge on a retention ballot and such elections have traditionally drawn little voter interest.

This year, however, the State Chamber of Oklahoma injected some controversy into the election by joining with Oklahoma City and Tulsa chambers to form a council that rated state Supreme Court justices and Court of Civil Appeals judges based on whether the council felt their decisions had a positive economic impact.

The ratings, which are available on the chamber's website, drew immediate criticism from many attorneys, who argued judges should be evaluated on whether their decisions followed the law, rather than perceived economic consequences of their decisions. The Oklahoma Bar Association created its own website dedicated to providing information about the judges and their decisions.

Following is a list of justices and judges on the retention ballot:

Oklahoma Supreme Court

Justice Noma D. Gurich, 60, was appointed to the state Supreme Court by former Gov. Brad Henry in January 2011, becoming the third woman to serve on the court since statehood. She has more than 24 years of judicial experience in Oklahoma, having previously served as a district judge and as a judge on the Workers' Compensation Court.

Justice Yvonne Kauger, 75, was appointed to the state Supreme Court by former Gov. George Nigh in March 1984. She graduated first in her class from the Oklahoma City University School of Law in 1969 and worked as an associate of the law firm of Rogers, Travis and Jordon until 1972, when she became the first female judicial assistant to state Supreme Court Justice Ralph B. Hodges. She held that position until she was appointed to the state Supreme Court.

Justice James E. Edmondson, 67, was appointed to the state Supreme Court by Henry in 2003. He previously served 20 years as a district judge. Earlier, he served as an acting U.S. attorney, assistant U.S. attorney and as an assistant district attorney in Muskogee County.

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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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