The Court of Criminal Appeals
When the U.S. Congress designated Law Day in 1961, the focus was to raise public awareness of American law and justice and their valuable impact on the lives of U.S. citizens. Take a moment to review, or learn for the first time, the purpose and history of the Court of Criminal Appeals. Actions by the court impact the life and liberty of certain individuals charged with a crime, victims of the crime, the families of both and others that are affected by the crime.
Did you know that Oklahoma has two courts of last resort?
The Court of Criminal Appeals is the highest court in the state with exclusive appellate jurisdiction in criminal cases. This is different than almost every other state. In Oklahoma the Supreme Court decides issues in cases that are civil matters, and the Court of Criminal Appeals decides issues in cases that are criminal matters. These criminal matters come directly to the Court of Criminal Appeals from Oklahoma District Courts and Municipal Courts of Record. There is no intermediate court for criminal cases in Oklahoma. If a question as to jurisdiction between the courts arises, the court to have jurisdiction is determined by the Supreme Court. See the organizational chart of the court system in Oklahoma that illustrates this system.
How long has the Oklahoma court system been like this?
The Court of Criminal Appeals derives its origin and jurisdiction from the state constitution, which was formulated by the constitutional convention and submitted to and adopted by the people of Oklahoma at the first election, held on Sept. 17, 1907.
In accordance with the constitutional provision, the First Legislature passed a law entitled "An act creating a Criminal Court of Appeals, and defining the jurisdiction of said court." On May 18, 1908 this law received the approval of the governor, and on Sept. 12, 1908 Gov. Haskell made the appointments of the three judges to serve on the court. In 1959 the name was changed from the Criminal Court of Appeals to the Court of Criminal Appeals. In 1988 the court was expanded to five judges, one from each of the Court of Criminal Appeals judicial districts.
Does the court ever hear oral arguments?
The court regularly hears oral arguments in various cases such as death penalty cases and those cases qualifying for fast-track consideration. The court is open to the public. Since seating space is limited in the courtroom and argument schedules can change, it is recommended that individuals contact the offices of the court before showing up for arguments.
The caseload of the court is current and disposes of between 1,600 - 1,800 cases per year, along with many, many other orders concerning other criminal matters. The court promulgates rules, procedures, and uniform jury instructions which are listed on the "OCCA Online" part of the Web site the court maintains at www.okcca.net. Also from this Web page one can link to legal research and the case docketing information, each provided by the Oklahoma State Court Network (OSCN) system. The Web site also contains more information about the five judges of the Court of Criminal Appeals, including their background before serving on the court.
In addition, the judges can be contacted by e-mail or telephone for requests for them to speak to a local bar or civic club meeting. Go to the Web site for contact information or call (405) 556-9600.
Information on other judges and justices can be found at www.oscn.net under "Courts." Also, there is more information on all judges and the judicial system on the OBA Web page.
THE ORGANIZATION CHART OF THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM