Oklahoma Senate bill would use retroactive mandatory retirement age to effectively clear the top appellate courts of judges

I’ve mentioned the press in Oklahoma to have the legislature and/or governor become much more involved in judicial selection and the workings of the judiciary, in particular term limits (the House Speaker has stated his view some judges have stayed too long). A bill introduced by the Senate Judiciary Chair who also wants to take the supreme court’s authority over the Code of Judicial Conduct away last week could effectively clear the state’s top two appellate courts (Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals) under the rubric of age.

The state constitution provides

Notwithstanding the provisions of this Article relating to terms of office, the Legislature may provide by statute for a maximum age qualification for election or appointment to office and for the retirement of Justices and Judges automatically at a prescribed age or after a certain number of years of service, or both. The compensation, age of retirement and procedure for retirement shall be prescribed by statute.

Invoking this provision SB 1897 would provide¬†a maximum age qualification: a judge must retire when the sum of their age + years of service as a judge = 80.¬† Based on the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s biographies of the serving justices and the corresponding webpages for the Judges of the Court of Criminal Appeals almost all of the Supreme Court members and perhaps a majority of the Court of Criminal Appeals would be forced out of office.

Moreover, unlike other bills introduced in this session and in past sessions to set a mandatory retirement age for Oklahoma judges, this bill does not contain provisions making the new rule prospective, exempting currently sitting judges, or allowing them to continue to serve out their current term.

SB 1897 has been prefiled for the 2014 session.

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