Oklahoma now in tie with Massachusetts for most legislative efforts to remove judges from office in 2011

I mentioned in March that 2011 was on track to have most efforts to remove judges from office in recent memory with efforts lodged against 10 judges by various state legislatures. Since then Pennsylvania was added (see post here). Now, Oklahoma’s legislature, which already had three such efforts, has added a fourth. HR 1024 petitions the Trial Division of the Court on the Judiciary to assume jurisdiction and institute proceedings for the removal of District Judge Tom Lucas for failing to disqualify himself from hearing cases prosecuted by the Office of the District Attorney of Cleveland County. The ABA Journal and The Oklahoman have a full recap of the events surrounding the DA’s blanket recusal motion (filed under seal) and the judge’s (very public) denial. In short, the DA’s office contends that Lucas is prejudiced against the prosecution in all criminal cases due to an active child molestation investigation in which a member of the judge’s family is involved.

Below is an updated list of pending impeachment/judicial removal efforts:

State Bill Form of removal Target Reason for removal request Status
Massachusetts HB 2172 Bill of address Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Roderick L. Ireland Unknown Pending
Massachusetts HB 2172 Bill of address Supreme Judicial Court Justice Francis X. Spina Unknown Pending
Massachusetts HB 2172 Bill of address Supreme Judicial Court Justice Judith A. Cowin Unknown Pending
Massachusetts HB 2172 Bill of address Supreme Judicial Court Justice Robert J. Cordy Unknown Pending
New Hampshire HR 7 Impeachment Marital Master Phillip Cross Decisions in custody/divorce cases Investigation approved by House
New Hampshire HR 7 Impeachment “any justice of the New Hampshire superior court” Decisions in custody/divorce cases Investigation approved by House
New Jersey SR 105 Impeachment Supreme Court Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto Refusal to vote in some cases Request for resignation or impeachment approved by Senate
Oklahoma HR 1001 Request for removal by judicial disciplinary commission District Judge Thomas Bartheld Failure to reject negotiated plea bargain in child sex abuse case Pending
Oklahoma HR 1005 Impeachment request to Congress U.S. District Court Judge Vickie Miles-LaGrange “Abuse of authority” for issuing an injunction against state’s sharia law ban Pending
Oklahoma HR 1006 Request for removal by judicial disciplinary commission District Judge Tammy Bass-LeSure 36 felony counts, including four counts of perjury and 32 counts of fraudulent claim Pending
Oklahoma HR 1024 Request for removal by judicial disciplinary commission District Judge Tom Lucas Denial of blanket recusal motion by DA Pending
Pennsylvania HR 124 Impeachment Court of Common Pleas Judge Willis W. Berry, Jr. Use of his office and judicial secretary for a decade to “assist him in the day-to-day operations concerning his properties.” Pending

5 thoughts on “Oklahoma now in tie with Massachusetts for most legislative efforts to remove judges from office in 2011”

  1. Massachusetts permits any citizen to file a proposed bill directly with the clerk of the legislature. The bill is assigned to the citizen’s legislators for sponsorship, who are marked by the clerk as sponsors “by request” if they do not endorse the substance of the bill. HB 2172 is a “by request” bill and not really a legislative effort.

  2. I don’t think that is entirely true. I know several instances where “by request” petitions to impeach or remove by bill of address justices of the MA Supreme Judicial Court for the same-sex marriage decision were entered into the House Journal but never given a bill number because no member of the legislature would sign on (see petition of April 4, 2004 at page 1587 and May 24, 2004 at page 1912)

    http://www.mass.gov/legis/journal/hj042604.pdf

    http://www.mass.gov/legis/journal/hj052404.pdf

    While this may have been “by request”, at least 1 member of the legislature felt ok with putting their name on it, which makes it notable and more than simply a constituent letter saying “I want a bill that says X to pass.”

  3. Emile Goguen, the sponsor of the petition referred to in the 4/26/2004 House Journal at page 1587, was a representative at the time who was bringing the petition on his own behalf, so that would not have been a “by request” petition. The same is true of the petition referred to in the 5/24/2004 House Journal at page 1912, which was sponsored by Philip Travis, also a representative.

    The targets of those removal petitions were justices of the Mass. Supreme Judicial Court who were in the majority in the case that held that the Mass. constitution required that same sex marriage be permitted. Goguen and Travis were plaintiffs in the (unsuccessful) federal case brought by several Mass. legislators and others trying to quash that decision.

    I believe that a bill number was assigned to that petition in 2005, but I don’t know about 2004:

    http://www.mass.gov/legis/bills/house/184/ht00pdf/ht00652.pdf

    With respect to the “by request” petition in the current session, I have no reason to think that Rep. Garlick, who is identified as the sponsor, has any interest in removing those justices. She is in the mainstream of Mass. Democrats.

  4. She may or may not have an interest, the point is the resolution was introduced for whatever reason. I’m not making a judgment on it, only indicating that it did in fact occur.

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