Oklahoma Judicial Nominating Commission asks for opinion on how it should proceed when SQ 752 takes effect today

An Oklahoma ballot measure requiring changes in the makeup of the Judicial Nominating Commission has some questioning whether it could affect Gov. Brad Henry's chances at appointing another state Supreme Court justice before his term expires.
BY ANN KELLEY Published: November 9, 2010
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A ballot measure requiring changes in the makeup of the Judicial Nominating Commission has some questioning whether it could affect Gov. Brad Henry's chances at appointing another state Supreme Court justice before his term expires.

Commission chairman and Tulsa attorney Allen Smallwood has requested a legal opinion from Attorney General Drew Edmondson to determine how the commission should proceed once State Question 752 goes into effect today.

The state question adds two at-large, nonattorney members to the commission.

The members would be appointed by the Senate president pro tempore and the House speaker. The measure also put restrictions on nonlawyers who serve on the commission, including prohibiting having an attorney in their immediate family.

Can current members stay?

Smallwood said some could argue the commission's decisions are not valid until two new members are added. In addition to that, there is a question whether three existing lay members on the commission can continue to serve because they are married to lawyers, he said.

He said those members are Sarah Redwine, of Norman, Connie L. Calvert, of Oklahoma City, and Kathryn K. Cornell, of Clinton.

"The last thing we want to do is go through the selection process and have someone question whether our membership is legal," he said.

Henry has expressed his desire to fill the vacancy left by former Justice Marian Opala, who died Oct. 11. It would be Henry's sixth appointment to the state's highest court.

AG opinion could take weeks

Sen. Patrick Anderson, R-Enid, an author of SQ 752, said Monday the three lay members married to lawyers should be removed from the commission the day the measure takes effect.

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