The Supreme Court is one of Oklahoma’s three appellate courts, along with the Court of Civil Appeals and Court of Criminal Appeals. An appellate court hears appeals from lower court decisions.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court was established under Article VII of the state Constitution. Originally, the Oklahoma Supreme Court had five justices, but four more were added in 1917 to accommodate a growing caseload. The Oklahoma Supreme Court has jurisdiction over all civil matters from lower courts such as district courts, the Court of Tax Review, and over conflicts arising amongst state agencies. The Supreme Court further assesses the legality of actions taken by the legislative and executive branches.
The qualifications for appointment include being at least 30 years of age, experience as an attorney or judge for at least five years prior to appointment, and voter registration in their represented district for at least one year. In the event of a vacancy, eligible candidates may submit their names to the Judicial Nominating Commission, a 15-member body of the Judicial Department, for review. The Judicial Nominating Commission then sends the names of selected nominees to the Governor, who appoints the new justice. Justices are up for a retention election after their first year, and then every six years following. These elections are nonpartisan and prohibit any campaign fundraising. Oklahoma is one of 39 states where voters play a role in selecting judicial positions. No justice has ever lost a retention election.