An overhaul of Oklahoma's workers' compensation system isn't the only judicial reform being proposed by Republican lawmakers this session. The menu also includes a handful of proposed changes regarding how judges are chosen and retained.
Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, is the author of three joint resolutions that, if passed by the Legislature, would give voters final say on these matters of the court.
One would change the state constitution, with voter approval, to allow appeals court judges to serve a single 20-year term. Now, these judges serve six-year terms and then go to a retention ballot. No appeals court judge has ever failed to be retained. Truth is, most voters have little to no idea whether judges have done a good job and figure there's no reason to evict them if they haven't seen their name in the paper or on the news for something unseemly.
Jolley said he'd be open to the idea of allowing judges to serve a second 20-year term. But that figure may need to be tweaked — after all, terms for other statewide elective offices max out at eight or 12 years.
A separate resolution seeks to give the governor a bit more clout in choosing judges. Presently the state's Judicial Nominating Commission vets candidates and provides the governor with three names to choose from. Jolley would like to see the governor pick judges directly, with input from the commission. Senate confirmation would be needed.
Jolley's third resolution would, if voters approve, let the governor choose the chief justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court. The justices now make that selection.
Abolishing the Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Court, the top priority of Senate leadership, stands to significantly change business costs for the better. The other proposed judicial changes may not be as consequential, but they're interesting ideas that deserve lawmakers' consideration.