Monday, October 26, 2020

Here's what you need to know about the judges on the ballot


It's voting time, and you're here because you don't want to be surprised when you see eight judges and justices on your ballot that you know nothing about. Thanks for dropping by!

If you've ever done the frustrating task of searching for information on these courts and judges, I feel your pain. As I mentioned in a previous post, finding information on the justices and judges on the retention ballot can be a difficult task, and basic information such as their ages can be anywhere from difficult to find to completely unknown to even Google.

In this post, we'll cover the following justices and judges, which are on every Oklahoma voter's ballot:
  • Supreme Court - Tom Colbert 
  • Supreme Court - Richard Darby 
  • Supreme Court - Matthew John Kane IV 
  • Criminal Appeals - Robert Hudson 
  • Criminal Appeals - Gary Lumpkin 
  • Civil Appeals - Deborah Barnes 
  • Civil Appeals - Keith Rapp 
  • Civil Appeals - Jane Wiseman

A quick explainer before we move to the judges themselves. From CourtFacts.org:
Oklahoma Supreme Court, Court of Criminal Appeals and Court of Civil Appeal are called "appellate courts," because they hear cases that have been appealed, and judges on these courts are thus called "appellate judges."

Appellate judges are first appointed by the governor from a list of three names of qualified individuals prepared by the Judicial Nominating Commission. At the end of their terms, appellate judges wishing to remain in office must declare their candidacy for retention. When a judge seeks retention, the judge's name is placed on the ballot at the next general election. Then Oklahoma voters can select "yes" to vote to retain that judge, or "no" to vote to not retain that judge. The Oklahoma Constitution provides that if an appellate judge does not receive a majority of "yes" votes, the office becomes vacant and the governor appoints a replacement.

If the judge does not file for retention or is not retained by voters, the governor appoints a new judge. 
Since Oklahoma went to this system in the 1960s, no judge has ever lost a retention vote. Each of these courts have six-year terms, so keep that in mind as you consider each of these judges and justices.

What's very important to remember is that the Governor is the individual who places judges and justices on these courts, so ultimately, they're respective political beliefs and party platforms influence and inform who they select to serve on the bench. If by some miracle one of the eight judges on the ballot this year becomes the first in history to lose a retention vote, Governor Kevin Stitt (R) would get to appoint a replacement. Do you like Governor Stitt? Are you a conservative or Republican? You might be more favorable to voting no on some of these judges then, as if the judge loses, Gov. Stitt gets the opportunity to appoint a replacement.

By the same token, the party affiliation of the Governor who appointed each of these judges is a contributing factor for you to consider. Do you agree more with the Republican Party platform, or with the Democratic Party platform? When appointing justices and judges, Democratic and Republican governors each have tendencies that generally mirror their party platforms. The judicial beliefs of their appointed judges usually follow (not always, but generally). Your position on the differing platforms is an important point to remember.

After giving what useful information I was able to find online, I will conclude each judge by listing how I will be voting, along with suggestions from conservative Tulsa blogger Michael Bates and conservative activists Steve Fair and Georgia Williams from the Lawton/Duncan area, both being sources that I trust.

Supreme Court (6 year term)

Justice Tom Colbert (71) was appointed to the Oklahoma Supreme Court by Democratic Governor Brad Henry in 2004.

He is the first African-American member of the Oklahoma Supreme Court. In college, he was All-Conference in the triple jump and All-American in the long jump. Colbert was a member of the U.S. Army's Criminal Investigation Division from 1973 to 1975, receiving an honorable discharge in 1975. He later taught in Chicago public schools and law school in the late 1970s-early 1980s, was an assistant DA for two years, and then had nearly 15 years of private practice. Republican Gov. Frank Keating appointed him to the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals in 2000, the first African-American judge on that court.

When the State Supreme Court ruled that the 10 Commandments Monument had to be removed from the groups of the State Capitol, Justice Colbert was one of two who dissented. However, on the three most recent cases relating to abortion, Justice Colbert took the pro-abortion side every time.

I will be voting 'no' (do not retain) on Justice Tom Colbert. Michael Bates agrees with this position, as well as Steve Fair and Georgia Williams.


Justice Richard Darby (62) was appointed to the Oklahoma Supreme Court by Republican Governor Mary Fallin in 2018.

Darby served as a district judge for 23 years before his appointment to the Supreme Court. Before that, he was a Special Judge for four years, then Associate District Judge for four years, for a total of nearly thirty-five years of judicial work. His wife was the longtime superintendent of Altus Christian Academy before retiring this year.

On two different cases relating to abortion since he joined the Court, Justice Darby took the pro-life side both times. 

I will be voting 'yes' (do retain) on Justice Darby. Fair and Williams concur, while Bates plans to vote no in order to give Gov. Stitt a new position to fill (and an opportunity to "continue his winning streak" on Supreme Court justices) has shifted to a 'yes' vote upon further consideration.

Justice Matthew John Kane IV (58) was appointed by Republican Governor Kevin Stitt in 2019.

Kane is a former district judge of 14 years. He is a homeschool dad, and a Roman Catholic. Prior to his appointment to the Supreme Court, Kane had also served as the Presiding Judge on the Oklahoma Court on the Judiciary- the body that actually judges other judges. His great-grandfather (and namesake) was on the original Oklahoma Supreme Court, serving from 1907 to 1923.

On the one case relating to abortion since he joined the Court, Justice Kane took the pro-life side.

I will be voting 'yes' (do retain) on Justice Kane. Fair and Williams agree, as does Bates (who knows Kane personally and speaks very highly of him).


Court of Criminal Appeals (6 year term)

Judge Robert Hudson (63) was appointed by Republican Governor Mary Fallin in 2015.

Hudson is a former district attorney of 16 years, with 13 years of private law practice before that. He served as First Assistant Attorney General for a year, and then had two years as a Special Judge before joining the Court of Criminal Appeals. Hudson is a deacon and Sunday School teacher at First Baptist Church of Guthrie, and runs a wheat and cow-calf operation near Guthrie.

I will be voting 'yes' (do retain) on Judge Hudson. Fair and Williams concur, while Bates argues for a 'no' vote in light of Hudson's ruling on the Daniel Holtzclaw case.

Judge Gary Lumpkin (74) was appointed by Republican Governor Henry Bellmon in 1989.

Lumpkin served on active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1968-1971, including 18 months in Vietnam. He retired with thirty years of service on June 1, 1998, with the rank of Colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve. He completed his military service as one of only two Marine Reserve judges assigned to the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals. Lumpkin spent the late 70's and the 80's as an Assistant District Attorney, First Assistant District Attorney, Associate District Judge, and then and four years as a District Judge before his appointment to the Court of Criminal Appeals. He is a member of Waterloo Road Baptist Church in Edmond. An acquaintance of mine who worked for Lumpkin calls him 'to the right of Scalia'.

I will be voting 'yes' (do retain) on Judge Lumpkin. Fair and Williams disagree and call for a 'no' vote (seemingly due to his long time on the court), while Bates argues for a 'no' vote in light of Hudson's ruling on the Daniel Holtzclaw case.

Court of Civil Appeals (6 year term)

Judge Deborah Barnes (66) was appointed by Democratic Governor Brad Henry in 2008.

Barnes was in private sector legal and oil/gas work before being tapped by Gov. Henry. It does not seem that she had any prior judicial experience, unlike most of the individuals on these various courts. She appears to serve on the board of elders for Harvard Avenue Christian Church in Tulsa (a very liberal denomination).

I will be voting 'no' (do not retain) on Judge Barnes. Fair and Williams and Bates likewise call for 'no' votes.

Judge Keith Rapp (86) has served on the Court of Civil Appeals since 1984, when he unseated an incumbent judge for the first time in the history of the court. Starting in 1986, the Court of Civil Appeals joined the retention ballot used by the Supreme and Criminal Appeals courts, and most sources online indicate that Democratic Governor George Nigh re-appointed Judge Rapp to the Court, where he had been retained ever since. As I said previously, some information regarding these judges is almost impossible to find. The Court of Civil Appeals webpage doesn't even have a biography of any of their judges (literally just a group photo and list of names).

Rapp served in the US Navy from 1953-1955, with two aircraft carrier tours to the Far East. Later, he seems to have been an instructor of Sino-Soviet relations and atomic and biological warfare in the Naval Reserves Officers’ School, and retired at a later date from the U.S. Naval Reserves as a Judge Advocate General Corps commander. Back in civilian life, he worked as an aerospace engineer, specializing in guidance and navigation systems, working on the Mercury, Apollo, Lunar Lander and Skylab projects. Rapp is the longest serving judge on the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals

I will be voting 'no' (do not retain) on Judge Rapp. Fair and Williams and Bates likewise call for 'no' votes.

Judge Jane Wiseman (73) was appointed by Democratic Governor Brad Henry (D) in 2005.

Wiseman worked in the private legal field before being appointed a special district judge, and then district judge in the late 70's and early 80's. She officiated the first homosexual marriage in Oklahoma in direct contradiction to the 2004 state constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman, calling it a “joyous occasion” (featured prominently in reporting by the Tulsa World). Wiseman is a member of First Presbyterian Church in Tulsa, which is affiliated with the very liberal Presbyterian Church (USA) denomination.

I will be voting 'no' (do not retain) on Judge Wiseman. Fair and Williams also recommend 'no' votes, and Bates points out particularly egregious and contradictory rulings she made in Tulsa County before her elevation to the Court of Civil Appeals (he also urges a 'no' vote).


Again, as a quick recap, here are the judges and justices, along with my voting recommendation:

  • Supreme Court - Tom Colbert (No)
  • Supreme Court - Richard Darby (Yes)
  • Supreme Court - Matthew John Kane IV (Yes)
  • Criminal Appeals - Robert Hudson (Yes)
  • Criminal Appeals - Gary Lumpkin (Yes)
  • Civil Appeals - Deborah Barnes (No)
  • Civil Appeals - Keith Rapp (No)
  • Civil Appeals - Jane Wiseman (No)

I hope this information has been helpful to you. Pass it along to any voter you know that is in need of this material before they cast their ballot! No guarantees, but I'll try to do a similar post regarding State Question 805 and State Question 814.


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click to view full size

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You can view other money-saving apps I use, along with promo codes to get you jumpstarted, at this page

Thanks for humoring me and reading to the very end! I hope all of the information in this post is helpful to you. 

4 comments:

maryjmccauley said...

Thank you, I appreciate the judge list

Unknown said...

Very helpful...will pass it on.

Anonymous said...

I usually vote no on all judges, because I know nothing
about them; and, I also assume they have served for
many years and need to be replaced.

This info has enlightened me, and thanks for sharing.

ABaker12 said...

This was so helpful! Thank you for sharing!