by Patrick B. McGuigan
A modest effort to support retention of all four state Supreme Court justices on the November ballot emerged in recent weeks, featuring newspaper and other advertising, as well as distribution of talking points to attorneys and other citizens.
Support for “YES” votes on popular retention of the four justices comes in response to a critical analysis of their voting patterns on issues touching tort litigation and business issues. The State Chamber financed a study for the Oklahoma Civil Justice Council.
Advertisements placed by a group called “Yes for Fair and Impartial Judges” stressed the importance of judicial integrity, fairness and impartiality. Educational steps were taken to inform voters that the four Supreme Court justices are not running against each other, but that voters “have the opportunity to support them to uphold the law as written.”
The “Yes” advocacy led to prominent advertisements in many newspapers, including The City Sentinel. Members of the Oklahoma County Bar Association grew more visible in supporting the judges over recent weeks.
All voters will see the names of the four justices – Yvonne Kauger, Noma Gurich, Doug Combs and James Edmondson. On the ballot, voters can answer the question (Yes or No): Shall —— of the Oklahoma Supreme Court be retained in office?” Typically, justices and judges are retained by 2-1 or stronger margins.
Fred Morgan of the state Chamber said the evaluations are designed to fill a gap in which voters “have little or no information” about jurists. He said the Chamber wants voters to “make an informed decision on November 6.” Through the Civil Justice Council, the Chamber has financed an advertising effort in selected newspapers, including The City Sentinel.
Earlier this month, this newspaper carried news stories about the evaluations, and critical responses from some attorneys.
Morgan and others who distributed the council’s evaluation say the focus on civil liability is intended to underscore the role legal climate plays in state economic growth. Last week, the State Chamber released a second analysis of the records of three of the six judges on the Court of Civil Appeals on the November ballot.