Judges and courts

Judges and Courts

Statewide Judicial Retention Ballot

Oklahomans voted in 1967 to amend the Oklahoma Constitution to change the manner in which Oklahoma Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals judges are chosen. Before 1967, appellate judges were elected in partisan statewide elections that required them to raise large sums of money to fund the campaign and to devote much time out of their offices campaigning. In 1987, a statute was added that provided retention ballots for judges of the Court of Civil Appeals. The current method provides for a retention ballot on which voters indicate "yes" or "no" on whether a justice or appellate judge should be retained in office based on their performance in office.

Appellate judicial terms are for six years. Appellate judges are first appointed by the governor from a list of three names of qualified individuals prepared by the Judicial Nominating Commission. At the end of their terms, appellate judges wishing to remain in office must declare their candidacy for retention. When a judge seeks retention, the judge's name is placed on the ballot at the next general election. If the judge does not file for retention or is not retained by voters, the governor appoints a new judge. Appellate judges cannot be listed on the ballot by their political party. The Oklahoma Constitution provides that if an appellate judge does not receive a majority of "yes" votes, the office becomes vacant and the governor appoints a replacement.

For the exact wording of the law regarding no political party affiliation, go to 20 O.S. § 1404.1.

For a current list of judges seeking retention, please visit Court Facts.