A guide to Tulsa County and Pawnee County judicial offices, 2010

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CORRECTION: 2010/06/14: Judge Linda Morrissey is registered to vote as an Independent, not a Democrat as I previously reported. I regret the error. Her husband, John Nicks, is a former Tulsa County Democratic Party chairman and was a Democratic candidate for Oklahoma Attorney General in 1994 and Tulsa County Commission District 2 in 2002. The two younger voters registered at the same address are also Democrats. A 1992 Tulsa World story reported that Morrissey was among a group of "[m]ore than 100 Oklahomans... expected to attend various inaugural galas, balls and ceremonies Jan. 20 in Washington, D.C." in honor of Bill Clinton, according to Rosemary Addy, cited by the story as political director of the Oklahoma Democratic Party.

This is an update of an entry from four years ago. The structure and offices are the same, but some of the names are different for 2010.

It took me a while to puzzle all this out, and I thought others might be interested as well.

Oklahoma has 26 District Courts. Tulsa County and Pawnee County constitute Judicial District No. 14. State law says that District 14 has 14 district judge offices. (Why are Tulsa County and Pawnee County coupled together? Why not Pawnee with, say, Osage, and Tulsa on its own, as Oklahoma County is?)

One judge must reside in and be nominated from Pawnee County, eight must reside in and be nominated from Tulsa County. If there are more than two candidates for any of those nine offices, there is a non-partisan nominating primary in the appropriate county, and the top two vote-getters are on the general election ballot. (Even if one gets more than 50% of the vote, the top two still advance.)

In the general election, all voters in Pawnee and Tulsa Counties vote on those nine seats.

The remaining five district judges are selected by electoral division in Tulsa County. In order to comply with the Voting Rights Act, Tulsa County is divided into five electoral divisions, one of which (Electoral Division 3) has a "minority-majority" population. (The minority-majority district is much smaller than the other four, as it must be in order to guarantee that the electorate is majority African-American.) For each of these five offices, if there are three or more candidates, there is a non-partisan nominating primary. If one candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, he is elected; otherwise, the top two advance to the general election. For each of these five offices, the candidates must reside in the corresponding electoral division, and only voters in that electoral division will vote for that office in the primary and general election. (Oklahoma County, Judicial District No. 7, is the only other county with judges elected by division.)

Despite the three different paths one can take to be elected, a Judge in Judicial District No. 14 can be assigned to try any case within the two counties.

Each county in the state also elects an Associate District Judge, nominated and elected countywide. After two elections in a row in which the incumbent Tulsa County Associate District Judge was ousted, this time around incumbent Dana Kuehn has been reelected without opposition. Former Tulsa County Associate District Judge Caroline Wall has opted to run for the open seat being vacated by Deborah Shallcross. Pawnee County Associate District Judge Matthew Henry was again re-elected without opposition. (He was probably helped by all that free publicity from his Bible commentary.)

In addition to the elected judges, the District has a certain number of Special Judges, who are appointed by and serve at the pleasure of the District Judges. Three of the candidates for District Judge Office 13 (the open seat) currently serve as Special Judges.

All this I was able to puzzle out from prior knowledge and browsing through the relevant sections of the Oklahoma Statutes. What I still couldn't quite figure out is which of the 14 offices corresponded with the five electoral divisions, and which one was nominated from Pawnee County. Although electoral division 4 votes for office 4, I was pretty sure the pattern did not apply to the other offices. After a few phone calls, someone from the Tulsa County Election Board found the relevant info in the League of Women Voters handbook. So here it is, for your reference and mine, with the party registration of each judge noted in parentheses. (Yes, I know Oklahoma judicial races are non-partisan and judicial candidates are supposed to refrain from mentioning party affiliation, but I'm not subject to that restriction, and party registration is a matter of public record. Party affiliation may be some indication of a candidate's judicial philosophy.)

Office Incumbent Nominated by Primary 2010 Elected by General 2010
1 Kellough (D) Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.  
2 Harris (D) Tulsa Co. ED 3   Tulsa Co. ED 3  
3 Smith (D) Tulsa Co. Yes Tulsa and Pawnee Cos. Yes
4 Cantrell (I) Tulsa Co. ED 4 Tulsa Co. ED 4
5 Sellers Pawnee Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.  
6 Chappelle (R)2 Tulsa Co. ED 2   Tulsa Co. ED 2  
7 Gillert (D) Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.  
8 Thornbrugh (R) Tulsa Co. ED 5   Tulsa Co. ED 5
9 Morrissey (I) Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos. Yes
10 Fitzgerald (D) Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.  
11 Nightingale (D) Tulsa Co. ED 1   Tulsa Co. ED 1  
12 Fransein (R) Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.  
13 Shallcross (D)1 Tulsa Co. Yes Tulsa and Pawnee Cos. Yes
14 Glassco (D)2 Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos. Yes

Offices elected by Tulsa County Electoral Divisions in red.
Offices nominated by Pawnee County in blue.

1 Not seeking re-election.
2 Appointed by Gov. Henry to fill unexpired terms of McAllister and Gassett, respectively.

Although all 14 offices are up for election this year, only four offices are contested, and only two of those will be on the primary ballot.

Three incumbent judges have drawn opponents: Smith, Morrissey, and Glassco. Tulsa City Councilor John Eagleton, a registered Republican, is challenging, Linda Morrissey, a registered independent (CORRECTED: see above). Judge Clancy Smith (Democrat) will face Mark Zannotti (independent) and James Caputo (Republican). Caputo was a candidate in 2006 for Office 4. Kurt Glassco, Democrat nominee for Congress in 1988 and 1990, was appointed to replace Judge Michael Gassett. He'll be opposed in his first attempt at re-election by Jon Patton (Republican).

The only open seat, Office 13, currently held by Deborah Shallcross (D), has drawn special judges Carl Funderburk (D), Bill Musseman (R), Theresa Dreiling (I), former Associate District Judge Caroline Wall (R), and private practice attorney C W Daimon Jacobs (D).

None of the five offices elected by electoral division are being contested this year. Should you want to know which electoral division you live in, use the precinct locator at the Tulsa County Election Board website or consult this Tulsa County judicial electoral division map. Click here for the full collection of Tulsa County district and precinct maps.

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District Attorney Tim Harris and former assistant DA Joy Pittman Mohorovicic have endorsed Special Judge Bill Musseman for District Judge, District 14, Office 13, the open seat being vacated by Judge Deborah Shallcross. Here is the endorsement letter s... Read More

3 Comments

David Humphreys said:

In the race for the the open seat due to Judge Shallcross' retirement, Judge Theresa Dreiling is a Special Judge serving, I believe, in the Probate Division. She is a smart, fair and humble. The irony is that the best Judicial Candidates probably have the hardest time running a campaign for office. Ask any lawyer who has appeared before her; she is the person you want want judging your affairs if you wind up at the Courthouse. I wish there were better ways for voters to make informed choices in Judicial races.

bruce baker Author Profile Page said:

In the race for Judge Shallcross's seat. I am a supporter of Judge Funderburk. Before entering law he was employed as director, assistant director,at Westside YMCA for 13 years. Judge Funderburk has served as an assistant D.A., judge at the juvinile level, referee, and serves currently as a special district judge involving domestic and family cases. He is also invlved in his church nad graduated OSU with a Bachelors in Biblical studies. Judge Fuderburk is dedicated to families and to children in the commuity. I SUPPORT JUDGE CARL FUNDERBURK.

Mark said:

I am a supporter of Judge Bill Musseman. He is a former prosecutor and knows the law better than any of the other candidates. He was the hardest working person at the DA's office. DA Tim Harris has wholeheartedly put his support behind him. You can see his political affiliation listed above and my family is proud to support JUDGE MUSSEMAN FOR DISTRICT JUDGE!

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on June 13, 2010 10:45 PM.

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