Oklahoma Election 2014: October 2014 Archives

Three justices of the State Supreme Court (Reif, Colbert, Watt), one justice of the Court of Criminal Appeals (Lumpkin), and five justices of the Court of Civil Appeals (Goodman, Wiseman, Barnes, Rapp, Goree) will be on Tuesday's ballot.

Oklahoma has a two-path appellate system: Criminal cases are appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeals, which has the final word. Civil cases are appealed to the State Supreme Court, which may and usually does assign cases to the Court of Civil Appeals. Since 1967, judges in the appellate system have been appointed by the governor from choices presented by a panel dominated by a private club, the Oklahoma Bar Association. A newly appointed justice or appellate judge faces a retention ballot at the next general election and, if retained, every six years thereafter. Voters do not choose between candidates for these offices; each judge or justice faces a YES or NO vote. If the NO votes outnumber the YES votes, that judge is removed from office, creating a vacancy which is filled by the usual process.

I plan to vote YES on only one judicial retention: Court of Civil Appeals Judge Brian Goree, appointed by Gov. Fallin. Conservative blogger and attorney Don Danz wrote a tribute to Judge Goree at his swearing-in:

A former coworker, shooting buddy and good friend was sworn in as a judge today at the Oklahoma Supreme Court. In August, Gov. Mary Fallin appointed Brian Goree to the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals. Everyone who knows Brian would attest to the fact that he is the most honest, ethical, moral and hard working person we know. He will be an outstanding and absolutely unbiased addition to the Oklahoma judiciary.

I urge every Oklahoman to vote NO on Court of Civil Appeals Judge Jane Wiseman. As a district judge in 2003, Wiseman demonstrated partiality toward the rich and powerful by approving the unconstitutional logrolling in the Vision 2025 ballot. Her 2003 decision ignored her own reasoning eight years earlier when she rightly discarded a sales tax proposal for the new county jail because it included funds for early intervention programs on the same ballot item as funds for the jail's construction and operation.

Earlier this month, we saw Judge Wiseman officiate over the first "legal" "same-sex wedding" in Oklahoma, showing her solidarity not with the people who voted overwhelmingly to uphold the only definition of marriage that makes sense, but instead with the leftist fascists who seek to impose their morality on every state. Wiseman demonstrated her support for judges legislating from the bench, for seeing the voters of Oklahoma as subjects to be subdued, not a sovereign, self-governing people.

There have been too many examples of judicial overreach and incoherence from Oklahoma's appellate courts.

In July, a majority of the Oklahoma Supreme Court upheld State Rep. Sydney Fred Jordan's eligibility to be elected District Attorney. Their one-paragraph decision failed to address the legal questions raised by the briefs filed on behalf of Jordan and his opponent Steve Kunzweiler. The heart of the matter was when a state representative's term ends and when a district attorney is considered elected. The majority decision didn't speak to the language of the constitutional provision, Article V, Section 23, at question, or address the claim that Gragg v. Dudley applied to the District Attorney's office. Only Justice Taylor, in his dissent, wrestled with the substantive matters of interpretation raised by the case. The five justices who concurred in the seemingly tossed-off decision -- Kauger, Watt (up for retention), Winchester, Edmondson, and Gurich -- should be deeply embarrassed. Reif, who is on this year's retention ballot, recused himself. Colbert and Combs did not participate. On the strength of this decision alone, I will vote NO on Watt.

State Rep. David Derby reports that the Supreme Court's chief justice, Tom Colbert, came to the state capital to lobby against Derby's proposed reforms to the state's DUI laws. Derby was trying to move DUI charges into District Court so that they would be handled in a court of record, rather than municipal court. He cited one example where a driver had around two dozen DUIs, but because they were handled in municipal court, they failed to trigger a driver's license suspension. According to Derby, Colbert personally lobbied against the bill, which failed to advance.

A series of decisions earlier this year clinch the case against the three justices on the ballot. A split Supreme Court voted 5-4 to issue a stay of execution for brutal murderers Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner over disclosure of the drugs to be used in their lethal injection executions, despite our state constitution giving final jurisdiction over such issues to the Court of Criminal Appeals. The three justices up for retention this year -- Colbert, Reif, Watt -- were in the narrow majority along with Kauger and Combs. Taylor, Edmondson, Winchester, and Gurich dissented. In each of six decisions in the case, Taylor chided his colleagues, describing the majority as "crossing the Rubicon" and putting the Supreme Court in a matter where it has no constitutional authority, and thereby producing a "quagmire."

Of the substance of the murderers' appeal, Taylor wrote:

It is my view that from the very beginning this so called "civil" litigation has been frivolous and a complete waste of time and resources of the Supreme Court of Oklahoma. The plaintiffs have no more right to the information they requested than if they were being executed in the electric chair, they would have no right to know whether OG&E or PSO were providing the electricity; if they were being hanged, they would have no right to know whether it be by cotton or nylon rope; or if they were being executed by firing squad, they would have no right to know whether it be by Winchester or Remington ammunition. I hope that this case ends any thought of future journeys down this path that has led this Court to this day. It is also my hope that this Court never again crosses the Rubicon.

If voters get rid of the three justices on the wrong side of this issue, perhaps we can get a few more justices like Steven Taylor. (Taylor is next up for retention in 2016. It should be noted, however, that Taylor was on the wrong side of the TABOR petition, voting to toss it out without a hearing.)

Oklahomans for Life has called for reform of the judicial selection process because our own courts have thwarted legislative and initiative efforts to pass pro-life legislation. Effectively, these judges have blocked Oklahomans from advancing a law that might provide the occasion for the Federal Courts to reconsider and possibly reverse Roe v. Wade.

When in doubt, vote them out. A Fallin appointment is likelier to be committed to judicial restraint than holdover appointees of Democratic governors Brad Henry and David Walters. The removal of an appellate judge by the voters would also send a message to other justices that voters are paying attention to their decisions.

A few hundred years ago, Voltaire commented on the execution of a British admiral, executed on the deck of his own ship for a failure to do his utmost. "Dans ce pays-ci, il est bon de tuer de temps en temps un amiral pour encourager les autres." ("In this country, it is wise to kill an admiral from time to time so to encourage the others.")

In Oklahoma, it is wise to fire an appellate judge from time to time so as to "encourage the others" to do justice and respect the will of the people they are sworn to serve.

Three questions will be on every ballot in Oklahoma next Tuesday. Two have to do with property taxes; one has to do with whether state officials may also serve in the National Guard and Reserves. None of these questions are controversial, but because they involve amendments to the State Constitution, they must be put to the voters for approval. The Oklahoma Secretary of State is the official keeper of information state questions; links below will take you to the Secretary of State's site.

This year's state questions are all legislative referenda. Initiative petitions relating to school storm shelters, marijuana, and fees for connection to the electric utility grid were filed, but petition signatures were filed only for SQ 768, the medical marijuana petition. 155,216 signatures were required (15% of the highest number of votes cast for any office in the previous Oklahoma general election, in 2010), but only 75,384 were submitted and certified.

State Rep. Jason Murphey says that this is the "easiest year to write about these questions because there are only three on the ballot, and they are not controversial." He supported all three proposals.

SQ 769 went through the legislature as Senate Joint Resolution 33, passing the House 82-5 and the Senate 44-0. If SQ 769 is approved, the underlined text will be added to Article II, Section 12 of the Oklahoma Constitution:

Section 12. No member of Congress from this State, or person holding any office of trust or profit under the laws of any other State, or of the United States, shall hold any office of trust or profit under the laws of this State; provided, neither the provisions of this section nor any other provision of this Constitution or state law shall be construed to prohibit the following officeholders from holding at the same time any other office of trust or profit:

1. Officers and enlisted members of the National Guard;

2. Officers and enlisted members of the National Guard Reserve;

3. Officers of the Officers Reserve Corps of the United States;

4. Enlisted members of the Organized Reserves of the United States; and

5. Officers and enlisted members of the Oklahoma State Guard and any other active militia or military force organized under state law.

The Legislature shall have the power to enact laws to further implement the provisions of this section.

The intent is to eliminate any question as to whether guard and reserve troops may also serve in public office in Oklahoma.

SQ 770 went through the legislature as HB2621, passing both houses unanimously. If SQ 770 is approved, a new paragraph will be added to Article X, Section 8E, which provides a full homestead exemption for service-disabled veterans and their surviving spouses:

C. If a homestead otherwise eligible for the exemption authorized by this section is transferred on or after January 1 of a calendar year, another homestead property acquired by the qualifying head of household or by the surviving spouse of such qualifying head of household shall be exempt to the same extent as the homestead property previously owned by such person or persons for the year during which the new homestead is acquired and, subject to the requirements of this section, for each year thereafter.

Rep. Murphey writes:

Oklahoma's Constitution currently allows disabled veterans to receive an exemption from most property taxes. State Question 770 allows disabled veterans to sell their home and transfer the exemption to their new home during the same calendar year with no drop off in the exemption.

SQ 771 went through the legislature in the same bill, HB2621. It adds Section 8F to Article X, providing the same sort of homestead exemption to the surviving spouses of troops killed in the line of duty:

Section 8F. A. Despite any provision to the contrary, and except as otherwise provided by subsection D of this section, beginning January 1, 2015, the surviving spouse of the head of household who is determined by the United States Department of Defense or any branch of the United States military to have died while in the line of duty shall be entitled to claim an exemption for the full amount of the fair cash value of the homestead until such surviving spouse remarries.

B. In order to be eligible for the exemption authorized by this section, the surviving spouse shall be required to prove residency within the State of Oklahoma and must have previously qualified for the homestead exemption authorized by law or be eligible for the homestead exemption pursuant to law.

C. If a homestead otherwise eligible for the exemption authorized by this section is transferred on or after January 1 of a calendar year, another homestead property acquired by the surviving spouse shall be exempt to the same extent as the homestead property previously owned by such person for the year during which the new homestead is acquired and, subject to the requirements of this section, for each year thereafter.

D. The provisions of this section shall be applicable for the 2014 calendar year with respect to an existing homestead property owned by the surviving spouse of a person previously determined to have died while in the line of duty by the United States Department of Defense or applicable branch of the United States military.

I will vote FOR all three state questions.

Judges are supposed to apply the laws passed by our elected representatives in the legislature. Applying the law faithfully requires faithfully interpreting the words of the law as they are commonly understood. A judicial candidate who uses words in accordance with her own idiosyncratic decisions in an obvious attempt to mislead should be blocked from the bench by voters at the ballot box.

District Judge Kurt Glassco faces a challenge in his bid for re-election to District 14, Office 14, from Jill Webb.

In her campaign materials, Webb described herself as "happily married to a minister." That invokes a certain image based on a common understanding of the meaning of words. The vast majority of Oklahomans stand with civilized societies around the world and throughout history in understanding that marriage, rooted as it is in the realities of human begetting and the best interests of those begotten, necessarily involves one man and one woman, united for a lifetime.

Jill Webb means something different by those words. The minister to whom Webb claims to be married is Tamara Lebak, associate minister of All Souls Unitarian Church. Oklahoma law and civilized tradition doesn't recognize that as a valid marriage, notwithstanding the Leftist Fascist effort to impose its destructive redefinition of marriage through the courts. Someone who redefines words and uses them deceptively cannot be trusted to handle justly the words of the Constitution and statutes of Oklahoma. Additionally, a candidate who supports redefining marriage and is "married" to a Unitarian minister can be presumed to stand with Leftist Fascism and in opposition to civilization in the great ideological struggle over American institutions.

Kurt Glassco, the incumbent, has a reputation as a solid, reliable jurist. Although he was a Democratic candidate for Congress many years ago, the conservative attorneys I know unanimously describe him as trustworthy and fair. Certainly Glassco's re-election would be better than the election of a candidate evidently at ease with verbal deception.


We'll start our review of judicial races with an easy one, albeit one that is just outside Tulsa County, although it covers portions of the cities of Tulsa, Skiatook, and Sand Springs.

Judicial District 10 consists of Osage County, and it has exactly one district judge. Like all 77 counties, Osage County also has its own associate district judge. (District Attorney District 10 includes both Osage and Pawnee Counties. Why Pawnee County was attached to Tulsa County for judicial purposes is a mystery.)

The incumbent is John Kane. An Osage County native and graduate of Pawhuska High School, Kane was appointed to the post in 2005. Kane drew no opposition for re-election in 2006 or 2010, but this year, he is opposed by Skiatook attorney Philip Best.

Judge Kane is well-regarded by his judicial peers, by local law enforcement, and the legal community. In 2013-2014, Kane was president of the Oklahoma Judicial Conference, the statewide association of judges. He is presiding judge-elect of the Northeastern Judicial Administrative District, again elected by his peers in the region. Kane also serves as the Trial Court Chairman of the Oklahoma Supreme Court's e-court subcommittee. Kane has been endorsed by the Osage County Bar Association, the police chiefs of Pawhuska, Fairfax, Barnsdall, Hominy, Wynona, and Skiatook, the sheriff of Osage County, the principal chief of the Osage Nation, and the current and former district attorneys for the county. During his nine-plus years on the bench, he has presided as a judge in over 9,000 cases.

Our family has known the Kane family for seven years through our homeschooling community. Judge Kane's wife, Cyndi Kane, launched a Classical Conversations community in Tulsa in 2007. The Classical Conversations approach to homeschooling seeks "to know God and to make Him known," and to support homeschooling parents "by cultivating the love of learning through a Christian worldview in fellowship with other families."

More recently, we watched Judge Kane in action, presiding over mock trials involving eighth-grade students from several CC communities. For several years, he has opened the Osage County courthouse to student mock trials, as a way to introduce young people to the law and give them an understanding and respect for the process. Judge Kane's good humor, fairness, and insight were on display throughout the process.

The challenger, Philip Best, has a problematic past readily visible through a search of online court cases. Here's how the Bigheart Times, based in Barnsdall, summarized Best's past, in an October 16, 2014, story (links added):

According to court documents, Best was arrested at his Skiatook home for misdemeanor domestic abuse in December 1999. The case was eventually dismissed at the victim's request after he completed anger management courses.

Additionally, in 2004, his now ex-wife, Lori Duncan, took out a protective order in Tulsa County on behalf of the couple's underage daughter.

When asked about his record, Best chalked it up to his health and his marriages at the time and emphasized his ability to remain fair and impartial on the bench if elected.

There are long gaps in the list of cases in which Best shows up as attorney of record.

The contrast is clear. John Kane, an accomplished judge with a solid personal life and grounded in a classical Christian worldview, would deserve re-election whoever his opponent might have been, but even more so given the spotty record of his opponent. I urge my Osage County friends to re-elect Judge Kane.

Tomorrow morning, Monday, October 27, 2014, at 8 a.m., I'll be on 1170 KFAQ discussing judicial races on the Pat Campbell Show. (UPDATE: Here is the podcast of my conversation about judicial races with Pat Campbell, Eddie Huff, and Tulsa Beacon publisher Charlie Biggs. Here is a direct link to the MP3 file.)

Judicial races are the trickiest part of the ballot. In Oklahoma, only district court races are contested, and all judicial elections are non-partisan. The Oklahoma Code of Judicial Conduct, set by the State Supreme Court, tightly controls what judicial candidates can say and how they can campaign. This code grants a private club, the Oklahoma Bar Association, an official role in policing judicial candidates. Attorneys, who have first-hand experience with the capabilities and character of judicial candidates, are wary of speaking out against a judge before whom they may one day have to stand. If you're lucky, you may get some off-the-record scoop from friends at the courthouse. All this adds up to confusion and frustration for the voter.

In 2004, the Oklahoma Family Policy Council put together a questionnaire for Supreme Court and appellate judges focusing on judicial philosophy. They had their attorneys look at the questionnaire to ensure that judges would not violate Oklahoma's Code of Judicial Conduct by answering the questions. In the end, six of the eight judges sent a letter saying they couldn't respond to the questionnaire, the other two didn't respond at all.

Worldview matters. We are in the midst of a culture war. Like all movements grounded in unreality, the leftist fascist movement seeks totalitarian control of institutions and the destruction of any institution it can't control. Never has it been more important to know whether the men and women who seek to be our judges are in accord with the founding principles of American jurisprudence and Western Civilization or are in sympathy with the destructive forces arrayed against civilization.

While I know many fair-minded and good-hearted liberals, fair-minded enough to rule against their own ideological interests if the law points that way, many on the left have been influenced by the ideas of critical legal theory, which boils everything down to power and the use of any means to the end of establishing left-wing dogma as the state religion.

We need to see the hearts of these candidates. Sometimes we have rulings and written opinions that tell us whether a judge is with civilization or against it. At times we may only have indirect indications of a judge's character and worldview.

In the blog entries that follow, and in my radio comments tomorrow, I'll do my best to set out my judgment of the judges and the basis for that judgment.

MORE: This is an update of an entry from 2006 about the judicial offices in Judicial District 14. The structure and offices are the same, but some of the names are different for 2014.

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, for the second time Dana Kuehn has been reelected without opposition. There is a two-man contest for Pawnee County Associate District Judge, Patrick Pickerell of Cleveland v. Ken Privett of Pawnee.

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. There is no correspondence between being a district judge, associate district judge, or special judge and the docket you may be assigned to handle.

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.

Office Incumbent Nominated by Primary 2014 Elected by General 2014
1 Kellough Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos. Yes
2 Harris1 Tulsa Co. ED 3 Yes Tulsa Co. ED 3 Yes
3 Caputo Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.  
4 Cantrell Tulsa Co. ED 4 Tulsa Co. ED 4
5 Sellers Pawnee Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.  
6 Chappelle Tulsa Co. ED 2   Tulsa Co. ED 2  
7 Gillert1 Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.  
8 Barcus Tulsa Co. ED 5   Tulsa Co. ED 5 Yes
9 Morrissey Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.  
10 Fitzgerald Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos. Yes
11 Nightingale Tulsa Co. ED 1   Tulsa Co. ED 1  
12 Fransein Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.  
13 Musseman Tulsa Co.   Tulsa and Pawnee Cos.  
14 Glassco Tulsa Co. Yes 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.

Eight of the incumbent district judges were re-elected without opposition.

Two incumbents did not seek re-election. Former Tulsa Mayor and Tulsa County District Attorney Bill LaFortune was the sole candidate for the open seat (Office 7) being vacated by Tom Gillert. Retiring judge Jesse Harris left the other vacancy in Office 2, which drew four candidates; Sharon Holmes and Tanya N. Wilson survived the primary and will face the general election voters in their north Tulsa judicial election district.

The other four incumbents face challengers in the general election:

Office 1: William Kellough v. Caroline Wall
Office 8: Mark Barcus v. Doug Drummond
Office 10: Mary Fitzgerald v. Eric Quandt
Office 14: Kurt Glassco v. Jill Webb

The contested races will be decided by all voters in Tulsa and Pawnee counties, with the exception of Office 2 (decided by voters in Election District 3, mainly the north part of the City of Tulsa) and Office 8 (decided by voters in Election District 5, which covers Tulsa County west of the Arkansas River and north of 141st Street S, plus north of the river and west of downtown Tulsa, plus the east side of the river south of downtown and west of Lewis). The Tulsa County Election Board hosts a map of the Tulsa County judicial election districts. So everyone in Tulsa County will have three district judge races on the ballot, and about half the county will vote on a fourth race. Everyone in Pawnee County will vote on Offices 1, 10, and 14, plus their county's Associate District Judge race.

Judges on the Court of Civil Appeals, Court of Criminal Appeals, and Oklahoma Supreme Court face retention every six years after their initial retention vote at the general election after their appointment. If there are more votes against retention than for retention, the judge is removed from office and the governor appoints a replacement.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Oklahoma Election 2014 category from October 2014.

Oklahoma Election 2014: August 2014 is the previous archive.

Oklahoma Election 2014: November 2014 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.



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