President Pro Tempore-Elect
Senator Mike Schulz, R-Altus
State Capitol Room 422
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105
For Immediate Release: February 7, 2017
Sen. Mike Schulz
Sen. Anthony Sykes
Sen. Nathan Dahm
Senate Judiciary Committee Moves on Slate
of Judicial Reforms
The Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday approved a series of bills
aimed at reforming the judiciary, including a series of legislative
referendums that would reshape the way judicial appointments are
“These are important reforms that would shift the balance
of power in the judicial appointment process in Oklahoma away from
trial lawyers and back to the people. The governor and the members
of the Oklahoma Senate are directly elected by the people and on
behalf of the people should have more say in which judges are appointed
to the bench. These measures, which now move on to the full Senate
for consideration, present a variety of common-sense options to
implement much-needed judicial reform,” said Pro Tem Mike
Sykes, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was author
of several of the judicial reform bills.
“Oklahomans have been reminded countless times of the need
for judicial reform in Oklahoma. If we don’t have these discussions
about judicial reform, then we’re putting ourselves at the
mercy of a system that puts too much power in the hands of trial
lawyers instead of the hands of the duly elected representatives
of the people of Oklahoma,” said Sykes, R-Moore.
Among the measures authored by Sen. Sykes:
• Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 42, which, if approved, would
allow voters to decide whether to change the Oklahoma Constitution
to require a partisan election of Supreme Court justices and Court
of Criminal Appeals justices.
• SJR 43, if approved, would allow voters to decide whether
to amend the judicial appointment process to model the federal system.
Under this proposal, the governor would nominate candidates to fill
judicial vacancies and the Oklahoma Senate would confirm or deny
the governor’s appointment. The Judicial Nominating Commission
(JNC) would rate the governor’s judicial nominees as either
“qualified” or “not qualified.”
• SJR 44, if approved, would allow voters to decide whether
to amend the Constitution to modify the judicial nominating process.
Under this proposal, the JNC would provide the governor with five
qualified nominees to fill a judicial vacancy, instead of the current
recommendation of three nominees. The governor would be allowed
to reject those nominees and request five new nominees. The governor
would then select one nominee, whose name would be forwarded to
the Oklahoma Senate for confirmation.
Additionally, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the following
• SB 699, by Sykes, would require all appellate justices
and judges to retire when their combined age and years of service
• SB 700, by Sykes, which allows the President Pro Tempore
of the Oklahoma Senate and Speaker of the Oklahoma House to appoint
three attorney members each to the JNC board.
• SB 702, by Sykes, which adjusts the counties included in
the Supreme Court judicial districts.
• SB 708, by Sykes, which requires a district judge to have
served as lead counsel in at least three jury trials before being
elected or appointed to serve on the bench.
• SJR 14, by Sen. Nathan
Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, would allow Oklahoma voters to decide
whether to amend the Constitution to require 60 percent of voters
approve the retention of a judge.
• SB 213, by Dahm, which would change the boundaries of Supreme
Court judicial districts to correspond with the number of congressional
districts in Oklahoma plus adding at-large positions.
For more information, contact:
Sen. Sykes: 405-521-5569
Sen. Dahm: 405-521-5551