Steven Taylor has shown a strong and independent library of case opinions. He has sometimes dissented alone. Even then he has boldly declared his clear intellect and respect for the state's constitutional language.
The editorial review being published here, is a work subject to further consideration. Comments are especially welcome. But we have gathered enough data to begin the discussion and tip our hand as to which judges we do and do not support for a whole new term.
Oklahoma Supreme Court:
As we mentioned above, Steven Taylor is retiring and we call upon the appointed committees to find a set of candidates worthy to sit in his seat.
We did not use the Ten Commandments ruling in this review. It is our opinion that the constitution is clearly flawed in the so-called "Blaine Amendment" section. The justices were duty-bound to maintain a strict-constructionist ruling on this case. The correct remedy is to change the constitution (which we are doing with state question 790). A failure to pass this reform could result in the Oklahoma National Guard to go without chaplain care during deployment in war.
For Retention: None
James Winchester has consistently disappointing the legislature and been a foot dragging the process of reforming Oklahoma law. His continued selective use of the "One subject" argument is unacceptable. Winchester also ignored the plain language of the constitution 2 years ago when he voted to allow a legislator to run for District Attorney, even though the language of the constitution barred him from being elected until after his legislative term had expired. (Justice Taylor scolded the majority for this ruling)
Douglas Combs is a clear case of 'lame duck' abuse of power. Three days after Republican, Ma Fallin defeated Jeri Askin to succeed Brad Henry as Oklahoma Governor; Henry decided his fellow Shawnee Democrat should get this last-minute appointment. Henry has stacked the high court more successfully than any other governor since 1908. Five of the 9 justices are Brad Henry's appointees. If Combs wants to continues serving he should be removed by the voters and then seek a new appointment untainted by lame duck shenanigans.
For Retention: Hudson
When it comes to constitutional freedoms and civic participation, Robert Hudson became a hero of the grassroots activist. Activist, Al Gerhart, has been a blunt and aggressive voice in state government. He is the leader of the Sooner Tea Party. When Senator Branan used his dictatorial powers (granted by the corrupting senate rules), Gerhart sought all legal persuasions to get the popular bill a hearing and vote.
The majority of the Appeal Court agreed the blackmail charge was improperly applied to Gerhart with Judge Lumpkin writing that "Gerhart’s email did not urge or compel the senator to violate the law or commit an unlawful act."
Since the email was sent as a political ploy, the majority of judges could not validate the state’s claim that Branan was coerced to do anything against his will.
“The record indicates that Appellant was somewhat of an irritant to Oklahoma lawmakers. However, the Constitution protects the rights of the political irritant to contact his elected representative and voice his concerns as much as it protects any citizen’s right to do so,” expressed Hudson and his majority members
“Further, the circumstances surrounding the communication indicate the email was sent with the intent to persuade the senator to change his mind about a proposed piece of legislation for which he had not previously voiced support. This is pure political advocacy available to every citizen,” the majority opinion states. “..vehement, caustic and unpleasantly sharp political speech is protected by the First Amendment.”
“This case presents an issue that goes to the foundation of our Republic, i.e., individual freedom and the protection of the individual’s freedom of expression. The political process places those who seek to serve as legislators in the crosshairs of the divergent views of the public they seek to serve. To preserve the Republic we must continually preserve the right of the citizen to dissent and their desires,”
The majority also wrote that "a communication is a felony under the state’s blackmail statute based on what the speaker threatens to do".
“Here, Appellant did not threaten to do any act prohibited by the statute. The blackmail charge in this case was premature,” the judge wrote.
Judges David Lewis and Robert Hudson concurred with Lumpkin. Judges Clancy Smith and Arlene Johnson dissented.
Against Retention: Smith
Clancy Smith completely disregarded clear consttutional rights to redress of grievance and free political speech. No illegal or tort cause was committed by Gerhart; yet Smith said;
“Gerhart may or may not have been an irritant to Oklahoma lawmakers. However, in this communication he explicitly threatened one lawmaker, promising to investigate him and his family and expose him to ridicule, if the lawmaker did not ensure a bill was heard and passed. This conduct crosses the line from ‘irritant’ to criminal conduct,” Smith wrote
This court reviews all civil suits and has the power to adjust or reverse the decisions of lower courts. The Oklahoma Chamber and other large corporate interests have greatly stepped up their interest in this court. One pro-business group of the Oklahoma Chamber, Oklahoma Civil Justice Council; hasreviewed the decisions of the judges and scored their "pro business" dispositions. While there have been abuses of the courts for ridiculous judgments based upon frivolous "damages", There have also been scores of folks who are further damaged by a legal system stacked against the people of limited means or other severe impediments.
For Retention: Thomas Thornbrugh
Thornbrugh scored a moderate rating with a slight edge away from the pro-business group's preference. He is the brother of a former Tulsa legislator and from a historically active Republican family. His previous district court legacy is also a stellar one.
Against Retention: Larry Joplin
Joplin has been rated a vastly pro big business. His extreme legacy is worth a recall. His appointment was also a lame duck abuse by David Walters. Joplin had been a political appointee in the Walters administration and the court appointment was just another of Walters legacy of burdening the Keating administration with an inability to exercise the full duties of the governor's office.
Not decided: John Fischer
Fischer's low score in the pro big business scorecard puts him near Thornbrugh, but we are still seeking more info before making an initial judgment on him.