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Term limits for Oklahoma justices to be studied

A lawmaker says a legislative interim study on term limits for Oklahoma judges appears to be retaliation because it is announced three days after the Oklahoma Supreme Court threw out a law dealing with how lawsuits are handled.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Modified: June 7, 2013 at 10:25 pm •  Published: June 8, 2013

Three days after the Oklahoma Supreme Court tossed out a law favored by Republicans that dealt with how lawsuits are handled, the GOP speaker of the House is proposing a legislative study to look at term limits for the justices.

House Speaker T.W. Shannon announced his plans for an interim study Friday, a day after a legal challenge was filed with the Supreme Court on his bill that lowers the personal income tax rate and sets money aside for state Capitol repairs.

Some Democrats called foul.

“We have a great judiciary in the state of Oklahoma,” said Senate Minority Leader Sean Burrage, D-Claremore. “They're not a state agency; they are a third branch of the government.

“It seems to me this may be retaliation by the Legislature toward the judiciary,” he said.

The House of Representatives, under Shannon's leadership this past session, didn't take up a measure approved by the Senate that would have limited the terms of Supreme Court justices to 20 years. Senate Joint Resolution 24, which passed 38-6 in the Senate, would have sent the matter to voters. Appellate judicial terms are set in the state constitution and any constitutional change requires voter approval.

The measure is eligible for consideration by the House next year.

Shannon announced his study the same week the high court ruled a 2009 law that changed how civil lawsuits are handled violated the state constitution's single-subject rule. Also this week, the court was asked to take up a claim that one of Shannon's measures signed into law involved logrolling. That's a term used when several subjects are rolled into one bill.

Shannon's measure, House Bill 2032, cuts Oklahoma's top personal income tax rate in 2015 and provides $120 million over two years to pay for repairs to the state Capitol.

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