Giving serious attention to Oklahoma judicial races is a good thing

The Oklahoman Editorial Published: August 19, 2012

Oklahoma judicial elections could achieve a higher profile thanks to the new Oklahoma Civil Justice Council, which is sponsoring a rating system for judges on the Court of Civil Appeals and Oklahoma Supreme Court to help inform voters.

Oklahoma isn't the only state where judicial retention races are being scrutinized. Nor is it the only state where such efforts are controversial. About 20 states have judicial retention elections. Historically, most judges have been retained. But the perceived activism of some judges is changing the dynamic.

As far back as 1986, notes, California voters opposed retention of three supreme court justices who overturned dozens of death penalty verdicts. Today in Florida, three state supreme court justices are facing organized opposition in retention races. The court has issued several controversial rulings, including one striking down a death penalty measure and one preventing a public vote on a constitutional amendment challenging the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate.

In 2010, judges in Iowa, Alaska, Colorado, Kansas and Illinois drew organized opposition. In Iowa, where judges had legalized gay marriage, several justices were defeated. Judges in the other states survived.

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