Earlier this month, Gov. Kevin Stitt praised the Oklahoma House of Representatives for passing House Bil 2366.
Described as advancement of so-called “judicial reform legislation,” Stitt said Oklahoma Supreme Court districts were drawn in the 1960s and have never been revisited to reflect the state’s current population distribution.
However, the proposed “solution” weakens the structure of rural Oklahoma counties. Earlier this session, state Rep. David Perryman, D-Chickasha, warned of ending up “with a bunch of urban attorneys who don’t understand rural Oklahoma” and suggested the Supreme Court “would not reflect the people of the state of Oklahoma who actually have cases before them,” according to The Oklahoman.
Although our area lawmakers are still studying the issue, we believe House Bill 2366 will ultimately have a negative impact on Garfield County and, ultimately, rural Oklahoma. Eventually, the Supreme Court members likely will all be from the Tulsa or Oklahoma City metro areas. The perspective of the county seat lawyer or a rural judge will be lost forever.
You probably won’t get people like recently retired Chief Justice Steven W. Taylor from McAlester and former Justice Joseph M. Watt from Altus on the court, let alone anyone from Enid. Future judicial appointments will most likely be controlled by the State Chamber of Commerce and the politically connected elite in Oklahoma City and Tulsa.
Want proof? Look at the bill language. They are proposing that current District 2 in rural southeastern Oklahoma become one of the at-large seat on the court.
Why does that matter? Justice Patrick Wyrick is the current holder of District 2 and he has been nominated for a federal court position — so they expect that to be the first rural seat that they can go after.