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Oklahoma panel passes judicial age-limit bill

Sen. Julie Daniels, R-Bartlesville, pictured during a special legislative session.
Carmen Forman
Oklahoma Voice
Sen. Julie Daniels, R-Bartlesville, pictured during a special legislative session.

A Senate panel on Tuesday passed a bill that could give Gov. Kevin Stitt five appointees on the nine-member Oklahoma Supreme Court.

Senate Bill 1672, by Sen. Julie Daniels, R-Bartlesville, would require appellate and district court judges to retire when they turn 75.

She said the measure is needed to give others an opportunity to serve.

She said the Oklahoma Supreme Court had ruled unconstitutional bills Republicans worked hard to pass once they got in the majority. The bills ranged from abortion to lawsuit reform.

She said the state’s high court takes political action outside of its boundaries, adding that she is looking for “more judicial restraint.”

The Constitution gives the Legislature the power to make policy, but the Oklahoma Supreme Court has drifted into making its own policy, Daniels said.

Senate Minority Leader Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, said when she was first elected, she collected legislation the Oklahoma Supreme Court determined was unconstitutional.

The bills, in fact, were unconstitutional, but the mood of the GOP-controlled Legislature was that the court was wrong, therefore political, Floyd said.

Under questioning by Floyd, Daniels said her legislation would result in two vacancies on the state’s high court, giving Stitt the chance to appoint the majority of the court.

Floyd said there isn’t a retirement age for lawmakers, adding that some members are older than 75.

Daniels said she believed 75 was a reasonable age for judges to retire.

The state Constitution gave lawmakers the power to set a retirement age for judges, Daniels said.

The measure passed the Senate Judiciary by a vote of 5-4.

It heads to the full Senate for consideration.

Oklahoma Voice is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oklahoma Voice maintains editorial independence.

Barbara Hoberock is a senior reporter with Oklahoma Voice. She began her career in journalism in 1989 after graduating from Oklahoma State University. She began with the Claremore Daily Progress and then started working in 1990 for the Tulsa World. She has covered the statehouse since 1994 and served as Tulsa World Capitol Bureau chief. She covers statewide elected officials, the legislature, agencies, state issues, appellate courts and elections.
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