Oklahoma: Senate approves 33-13 major changes to merit/commission system; JNC would have no role in screening prior to nomination

The Oklahoma Senate yesterday approved its version of HB 3162, a constitutional amendment that would restructure the way appellate judges are chosen in the state (media report here).

HB 3162 as approved by the full Senate would effectively replace the current Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) system with a new one that would serve in an advisory capacity only. Key provisions would include

  • Governors would be free to appoint anyone to an appellate court. Currently the JNC submits a list of names for the governor to select from.
  • The JNC’s new role would be to review the governor’s appointee as either “qualified” or “not qualified” within 90 days after appointment.
  • The governor’s appointee would be subject to Senate confirmation. There is a default provision: if the Senate fails to confirm the nominee within a set number of days, confirmation would occur by default (“Inaction¬† on an appointee by the Senate within the specified time periods¬† shall constitute confirmation of such appointee.”)

The Senate’s version differs markedly from version the House adopted last month which revised the JNC’s membership and provided for a joint House-Senate committee to confirm individuals.

HB 3162 as amended by the Senate now goes back to the House.