ELECTION 2012: 12 judges up for retention this election
The names of twelve Oklahoma judges will appear on the ballot this November and Oklahoma voters will have the opportunity to vote on whether or not to retain them.
Four Oklahoma Supreme Court Justices and eight appellate judges — three from the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals and five from the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals — are up for retention.
Voters can decide to retain them thanks to the 1967 amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution and a 1987 statute that moved the three appellate courts from partisan campaigns to a merit retention system.
Judges do not campaign to be retained so voters must take a proactive approach to educating themselves on the judges, said Oklahoma Bar Association President Cathy Christensen.
Christensen said courtfacts.org is an invaluable resource to help voters learn more about the current judges.
“In my opinion Sooners appreciate the importance of a level playing field,” Christensen said. “The website helps voters understand that judges and justices must be free to decide a case without fear of retaliation.”
While retention is not as big a topic as the presidential race, she said voters should be concerned with the retention of judges and justices in every district because it is a state level issue and all Oklahomans are affected by the decisions of these judges.
The Oklahoma Democratic Party will not make any retention recommendations, said party chairman Wallace Collins.
Collins encouraged individuals can contact the parties to learn more about the affiliation of a specific judge or justice. He also recommended voters visit the state of Oklahoma’s website and its judicial branch page to learn more about individual cases.
Because the judges and justices are not running in campaigns it can be difficult for voters to find information about them said political science junior Kenneth Meador.
“There isn’t a consolidated source for this,” Meador said. “If the judge is not controversial you will not hear about the judge.”
He usually votes to retain on the basis that if you haven’t heard about a judge, they’re doing their job, he said.
The Oklahoma Republican Party could not be reached at the time of this publication.