Claremore Daily Progress

August 8, 2013

Special Session: Judges aren’t the problem

Ben Sherrer
Special to the Progress

OKLAHOMA CITY —

We’ve all heard the cry for a special legislative session following the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s ruling which invalidated Oklahoma’s 2009 tort reform bill.  
And this cry has been not only to enact the provisions of the tort bill, but also to address the “Activist Judges” in Oklahoma courts by imposing term limits.
In this column I’ll briefly share some facts about what led to our high court’s decision and why the decision was consistent with our law.
Article V, Section 57 of Oklahoma’s Constitution provides that “[e]very act of the Legislature shall embrace but one subject. . . .”  Its been in our Constitution since statehood AND been enforced by our state Supreme Court over and over again in our state’s 106 year history.
HB 1603 was the tort reform bill passed in the 2009 legislative session. 
It was 134 pages long and had 90 sections of law.  The bill covered 11 different titles of law:  Title 5 (Attorneys); Title 12 (Civil Procedure); Title 12A (Uniform Commercial Code); Title 20 (Courts); Title 23 (Damages); Title 36 (Insurance); title 47 (Motor Vehicles); Title 51 (Officers); Title 63 (Public Health and Safety); Title 70 (Schools); and Title 76 (Torts).  
The bill contained significant changes to many areas of existing law and had some completely new sections of law such as “The Common Sense Consumption Act"; “The Voluntary Practitioners Act"; and “The School Protection Act.”
I recall the small remnant of legislators voting NO on the contents of the bill who believed the bill would ultimately fail because of its unconstitutional combination of multiple subjects, not because of “Activist Judges”.  
The legislature failed to follow our Constitution.
Unfortunately attacks on our court system have become commonplace in our country’s political rhetoric.  
But I remain confident that it remains the best and most trustworthy system in the world.  It would be tragic for society if we allow the independence of the judiciary and our courts to be dismantled.
Please contact me with any questions or concerns you may have.  
During the interim I can be reached through my Capitol office at (800) 522-8502, in my Pryor office at 825-8989, or email at bensherrer@okhouse.gov.  Until next time, God bless you.
Ben Sherrer is state representative for District 8.