With seven articles and 27 amendments, the U.S. Constitution ranks as one of the shortest constitutions of any major power in the world.
By contrast, Oklahoma Justice Noma Gurich said, when Oklahoma ratified its constitution in 1907, it was the longest of any entity in the world.
Gurich spoke Monday at Rose State College to mark Constitution Day, the 225th anniversary of the ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1787.
Gurich was appointed to the Oklahoma Supreme Court in January 2011 by then-Gov. Brad Henry. She succeeded state Justice Marian Opala, who died in 2010.
Before being appointed to the state bench, Gurich served as a district judge in Oklahoma County since 1998.
Gurich is the third woman to be appointed to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
The differences in the U.S. and Oklahoma constitutions reflect the different attitudes their framers had about the roles the documents would play, Gurich said.
When framers drafted the U.S. Constitution, she said, they intentionally made the document as broad and simple as possible, leaving room for future generations to decide how to implement the law.
“They did not try to fill in every single blank,” she said.
By contrast, when Oklahoma's founders developed the state's constitution, they tried to address every possible issue that might come up, often leaving little room for interpretation years later, Gurich said.
That level of detail often leads to frustration when judges try to apply the law to modern situations, she said.
On the federal level, judicial power is outlined in Article 3 of the U.S. Constitution, which grants power to the Supreme Court and to lower federal courts, which the article says should be established by Congress.
That article, as well as several decisions that followed it, have had a direct impact on society today, Gurich said.
The court's 1803 decision in Marbury v. Madison established judicial review — the idea that courts may overturn laws they deem unconstitutional.
The decision also helped define the role of the court and the boundary between the executive and judicial branches of the federal government.
Although that decision was made more than 200 years ago, Gurich said, its impact is still felt today.
The decision allowed for later decisions that have had a direct impact on daily life in the United States.
For example, the court's 1896 decision in Plessy v. Ferguson upheld the constitutionality of state laws that required racial segregation under the “separate but equal” doctrine.
That decision was later overturned in Brown v. Board of Education, a 1954 case involving schools in Topeka, Kan., in which the court decided that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”
More recently, she said, much attention has been paid to the court's decision upholding the Affordable Care Act — the nation's health care reform.
“Nobody knew what was going to happen,” she said. “But it happened.”
The court's decision in that case wasn't universally popular, she said, but because the Supreme Court is the final arbiter of federal laws, the decision can't be appealed.
Those decisions wouldn't have been possible without a constitution that was broad and left room for judges to decide how it should be applied, Gurich said.
And that was the framers' intention when they ratified the document in 1787.
“I think they would be very proud of where we've come as a country,” she said.