judges-gavel

Lost in the static of the presidential election on November 8th are the Oklahoma Judicial Retention Elections. A Judicial Retention Election is a periodic process whereby voters are asked whether an incumbent judge should remain in office for another term. The judge, who does not face an opponent, is removed from the position if a majority of voters indicate that he or she should not be retained.

This article seeks to explore whether those holding to a Christian Worldview should vote yes or no to retain each judge up for retention. stating “Our State Supreme Court is progressive and activist.  The Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee has stated that the State Supreme Court “sometimes disregards our state constitution, and its opinions are inconsistent voting incorrectly on five out of six key votes, yielding a score of only 16.5%.” Over the last couple of year the current Supreme Court has come under fire by Christians for several decisions:

  • Prescott V. Oklahoma Capitol Preservation Committee (2015 OK 54) – Banned The Ten Commandments from the state Supreme Court building. It had been upheld by previous supreme courts. Winchester voted for the ban; Combs voted against it.
  •  Burns V. Cline (2014 OK 90) – Overturned a requirement for abortionists to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. Both Winchester and combs voted to overturn.
  • Nova Health Systems Vs. Pruitt (2012 292 p.3d 28) – The OK supreme Court unanimously voted to strike down the bill that required the performance, display, and explanation of a pre-abortion ultrasound.

The recommendations listed here are given based on the judges alignment with a Christian worldview and in light of the worldview of their potential replacement. Because all judges are appointed by the governor, it seems pointless to remove a judge by the same governor that appointed them, barring a shift in ideology or a bad decision. The Court of Civil Appeals is the most difficult to evaluate because they do not settle many high profile cases.

Note, the Tulsa World endorsed all of the judges for re-election. The Tulsa Beacon recommended voting no on the Supreme Court Judges and the Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee recommendations for each judges are listed by judge below.

Supreme Court

James R. Winchester – Supreme Court District 5                                                              OAA Recommendation: NO

James R. Winchester was appointed to this court by Republican Governor Frank Keating on January 4, 2000, and his term on the court expires in January 2017. He was given a 74% rating from the Oklahoma Civil Justice Council and is known as the only conservative on the State Supreme Court though he voted against all three of the bills mentioned above.The Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee (OCPAC) has given a NO recommendation for Justice Winchester.
Douglas L. Combs – Supreme Court District 8                                                                     OAA Recommendation: NO

Douglas L. Combs was appointed by Democratic Governor Brad Henry in November 2010 to succeed Justice Rudolph Hargrave. Combs received a campaign finance score of -0.1, indicating a liberal ideological leaning. This is more liberal than the average score of 0.33 that justices received in Oklahoma. Justice Combs is rated 36% by the Oklahoma Civil Justice Council and given a NO recommendation by the Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee.

Criminal Court of Appeals

Clancy Smith – Criminal Appeals District 1                                                                            OAA Recommendation: NO

Carlene Clancy Smith is the presiding judge of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. She was appointed to this court in September 2010 by Oklahoma Supreme Court Chief Justice James Edmondson to succeed Judge Charles Chapel. She was retained by voters in 2012 to finish the unexpired term of her predecessor, which expires in January 2017. Smith received a campaign finance score of 0.26, indicating a conservative ideological leaning.  She was a dissented vote in the denial of a stay in the execution of Richard Glossip. According to OCPAC Sources tell us that this Brad Henry appointee is very smart, but ideologically progressive to her core and way too nit-picky with jury decisions.

Robert L. Hudson – Criminal Appeals District 2                                                                 OAA Recommendation: YES

Rob Hudson  was appointed to the court on March 12, 2015, by Republican Governor Mary Fallin to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Charles A. Johnson. He was appointed Payne County District Attorney by Frank Keating and eventually he became chief of staff for Scott Pruitt.According to OCPAC, “Hudson appears to be a serious Christian, and everyone consulted gave him very high marks.” They have given a YES recommendation.

Tom Thornbrugh – Civil Court of Appeals District 3, Office 1                                          OAA Recommendation: YES

Thomas Thornbrugh was appointed to the court in September 2, 2011 by Republican Governor Mary Fallin. He was retained by voters in 2012 to finish the unexpired term of his predecessor, which expires in January 2017. Rated 39% by the Oklahoma Civil Justice Council. Thornbrugh was the only judge on the court with whom some OCPAC sources were not fully satisfied, but we recommend retaining him because he was appointed by Governor Fallin. The OCPAC gave no recommendation either way for retaining him.

John F. Fischer – Civil Court of Appeals District 3, Office 2                                              OAA Recommendation: NO

John Fischer was appointed to this court in May 2006 by Democratic Gov. Brad Henry and was retained by voters on November 4, 2008. He was retained again in 2010 for a term that expires in January 2017. Rated 37% by the Oklahoma Civil Justice Council. The OCPAC has recommended retaining the judge but the OAA is recommending not to retain due to general liberal leaning and the possibility of a more conservative appointment under Governor Fallin.

Larry Joplin – Civil Court of Appeals District 4, Office 2                                                    OAA Recommendation: YES

Larry E. Joplin was appointed to the court in November 1994 by Democratic Gov. David Walters.He was retained by voters in 1996, 1998, and 2004. His current term expires in January 2017.  Rated 82% by the Oklahoma Civil Justice Council. The OCPAC has recommended retaining the judge.