Oklahoma Civil Justice Council Publishes 2014 Judicial Evaluation of the Oklahoma Supreme Court and Court of Civil Appeals
The Oklahoma Civil Justice Council has published its 2014 evaluation of the Oklahoma Supreme Court and the Court of Civil Appeals.
These evaluations analyze cases that have an impact on economic development and that either create, expand or reduce liability. The evaluations were conducted by the Judicial Evaluation Institute of Washington, D.C., and Sequoyah Information Systems. Each judge received a rating based on their individual position in each case.
The Oklahoma Civil Justice Council was created, in part, to examine the performance of Oklahoma’s appellate courts. It is vitally important for all Oklahomans to have information about how these cases are decided.
"As the third branch of our state government, the decisions of the judiciary have a tremendous impact on everyone in our state,” said Oklahoma Civil Justice Council President Fred Morgan. “The spread of civil liability adversely affects our schools, non-profit organizations and businesses. Just as the State Chamber monitors and evaluates the activity of the legislature, our members are very interested in receiving more information about how decisions of the judiciary impact them.”
Judges looking at the very same set of facts with the same rule of law to guide them often rule in differing ways. Voters deserve to know if our judges are following the constitution and deciding cases based on the laws on the books or if they are expanding liability and creating new law. This evaluation arms them with the facts.
“The council’s effort to disseminate these evaluations is intended to educate Oklahoma citizens and voters,” said Morgan. “In Oklahoma, judges are on retention ballots, and voters have a right to more information before casting their ballot.”
The Oklahoma-based Economic Judicial Report (EJR), which compiled these evaluations, states that “the decisions chosen for inclusion in the reports are principally those that meet two criteria: first, in the opinion of EJR they will tend either to expand liability even further or, conversely, help stop its spread; second they present legal issues about which judges who heard or reviewed a case disagreed.”
To read the full evaluations and access the citations to the respective cases used in these evaluations, click the navigation tab above.
No. We hope to contribute to a more informed public discussion. In the past, citizens typically had little or no information on the records of their judges. Information they did have tended to be anecdotal and limited to a highly publicized case or two. This did not constitute a sound basis for assessing a judge's record. It also was unfair to the judges. Oklahoma citizens now will have reliable, empirical judicial ratings of their supreme court.
No, we plan to update this study biennially.
They mean that towns and schools and churches will be better able to ask, "How can we serve the people?" - if they don't have to ask first, "Will a lawsuit and a surprise ruling ruin us?" They mean that higher scoring judges have fostered a legal climate in which fewer of citizens' dollars have to be spent to protect against lawsuits, a society that lets voluntary associations and families concentrate more on their essential purposes and less on avoiding lawyers and litigation.
A small business can plan its growth better when the body of law that governs its activities and responsibilities is steady, clear and predictable. Businesses of all sizes are more likely to locate and expand in Oklahoma if they know they will be in a legal climate where the courts can be relied on to give statutes the meaning that the legislature appears to have intended. Towns and colleges and not-for-profits will have lower litigation budgets.
Without question, fairness and impartiality are the first qualities we should expect all our judges to strive for. Rating fairness - even defining fairness - is virtually impossible, however. Every judge would claim to be fair and impartial in every case, but still we have split decisions in which judges disagree.
Absolutely not. Nor are we saying it is preferable for a judge to have a 100% rating. If a common sense, faithful reading of a statute or the common law says that a certain injured person should be compensated for that injury, or that one business or not-for-profit agency has somehow wronged another person or entity, we believe that is how a judge should decide the case. EJR and JEI want judges to follow the law and do justice. As indicated above, it is principally when judges do not agree that this evaluation studies and critiques their decisions.
EJR and JEI believe that an inordinate spread of civil liability has harmed American economic and institutional life. EJR and JEI have developed strict criteria for evaluating judges objectively from this point of view. The report includes cases spanning a period of years to provide the best understanding of a judge's philosophy in cases affecting the spread of liability in our society.
EJR and JEI do not mean simply manufacturers' and merchants' liability, or product liability. The "expansion of liability" means that all of us are more and more vulnerable to being sued for an ever greater array of causes.
Yes. EJR and JEI evaluate these judges from a particular substantive-policy point of view. The fundamental policy premise behind the evaluations is that the extremes of expansion of civil liability in the American courts over recent decades inhibit growth, discourage enterprise, and change for the worse the way we conduct our personal and professional lives. Judge-made law in the state courts has created much of this liability expansion and many of its destructive features.