April 11, 2014

The Hero of Haarlem…For the Common Good



The story relates the physical and mental anguish and the battle against numbing cold that the young boy encountered, awkwardly perched halfway up the dike all night long until he was discovered at daybreak, in pain and despair yet alive and ultimately well, by a passing priest. 

While the boy is never named, the author subtitled the story within the story as, “The Hero of Haarlem.”

This legislative session, there is a desperate need for persons with the character of the young Dutch boy.  There are a number of bills that need to be turned back like the “angry waters.”  The bills deal with an overt attempt to politicize Oklahoma’s judiciary.  Most were filed in response to the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s determination that last year’s legislature failed to comply with the single subject rule in the Oklahoma Constitution.

To understand the current situation, one must understand the not too distant past. For decades prior to the 1960’s, county and appellate judges were selected by purely political means and many judges served accordingly.  That is not to say that there were not good, honest men and women who served on the bench at various levels with the utmost integrity.  

However, the design of the system was such that judicial appointments were so politicized that undue influence was always a strong possibility and often a reality.  As a result in the early 1960’s the state was rocked by a judicial scandal of impropriety and corruption that reached the highest levels of Oklahoma’s judiciary.

With a goal of achieving a fair and impartial judiciary, Oklahoma’s Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) was formed.  The Commission has worked well.  It began functioning in 1969 and nominates a pool of three candidates out of which the Governor may select one for appointment to fill vacancies on the Supreme Court, the Court of Criminal Appeals, the Court of Appeals, District and Associate District Judgeships, and the Workers' Compensation Court. The JNC has jurisdiction to determine whether the qualifications of nominees to hold judicial office have been met.

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