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Oklahoma Court Facts | Merit Retention FAQ
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We are usually asked about:

Why are Supreme Court justices, The Court of Criminal Appeals judges and the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals judges on the ballot this year?

Oklahoma Supreme Court justices and the judges of the two other appellate courts are on the ballot in nonpartisan elections every six years so voters can determine whether they should stay in office. This regular vote is called “merit retention.”

What do "Yes" and "No" votes mean?

A “Yes” vote means you want the justice or judge to stay in office. A “No” vote means you want the justice or judge to be removed from office. The majority of voters decides.

Do Supreme Court justices and the judges of the other two appellate courts have opponents?

No. Your vote will determine whether each justice or judge listed on the ballot should stay in office. They are not running against opponents or each other. Merit retention elections are non-partisan.

How do Supreme Court justices and the judges of the other two appellate courts get into office?

The governor appoints them from lists submitted by Judicial Nominating Commissions, which screen candidates and make recommendations based on the merits of applicants.

Newly appointed justices and judges go before voters for the first time within two years after the initial appointment. If the voters retain them, they then go on the ballot again every six years.

Which courts are subject to merit retention elections?

The Oklahoma Supreme Court, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals and the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals are subject to merit retention elections.

Can justices or judges who commit unethical acts be removed from office?

Yes. This can result after an investigation and trial before the Oklahoma Court on the Judiciary, which is an independent agency created by the Oklahoma Constitution solely to investigate and determine allegations of alleged misconduct by Oklahoma state judges, both trial and appellate . Through this system, judges have been removed from office for ethical violations.

How have the justices and the judges of the two appellate courts voted in cases?

Complete records of their votes can be found on the website, Oklahoma Supreme Court Network (OSCN) in the opinions in the cases which they have decided.

Where do justices and judges on the retention ballot stand on particular issues?

Canon 4, Rule 4.1 of the Model Code of Judicial Conduct forbids the justices and the judges of the appellate courts from saying how they will decide future cases, because they must remain truly impartial. However, their votes in prior cases are available on OSCN.

How can I learn more about the justices and the judges backgrounds?

Biographies of the justices and judges are available on this website.

How did Oklahoma decide to use the merit retention election system?

In 1967 Oklahoma’s voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment requiring that the merit retention system be used for all appellate judges. This vote came after the public became concerned about abuses that occurred because of the earlier system of contested elections.

Where can I find results from prior merit retention elections?

The State Election Board retains in their archives the results of previous elections.


In November 2014, you were asked to vote whether to retain the justices and appeals court judges listed on the ballot. This is called judicial merit retention. Under judicial merit retention, justices and appellate court judges appear on the ballot in staggered six year terms. Last year’s election provided voters the opportunity to vote to retain four Supreme Court justices and eight appellate court judges. They all originally reached their positions after being carefully screened by the Judicial Nominating Commission and appointed by Oklahoma governors in a process known as judicial merit selection.

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