Frequently Asked Questions

Where else has the Court met? 

The Court met in the Oklahoma State Capitol prior to meeting in the Oklahoma Judicial Center in 2011

Where did the Court first meet? 

After the construction of the Oklahoma State Capitol, which was completed in 1917, the Oklahoma Supreme Court offices and chamber were housed in the building. Plans to move the offices began in 2006. In 2011, the Oklahoma Supreme Court moved its offices from the Oklahoma State Capitol to the Oklahoma Judicial Center, where it resides today. 

Who were the members of the first Supreme Court? 

Matthew J. Kane, Chief Justice; R.L. Williams; Jesse J. Dunn; J.B. Turner; S.W. Hayes 

When did the Supreme Court first meet? 

The Court first met in 1907 after its creation in the Oklahoma Constitution and subsequently enactment in the 1908 statutes. The Court originally had five members, but four more members were added in 1917

How many cases are appealed to the Court each year and how many cases does the Court hear? 

During the 2020 Fiscal Year, 418 original actions were filed with the Supreme Court 1,429 appeals were filed, 3 state questions challenges were filed, and 23 certified interlocutory orders were filed. The Court heard 4 oral arguments, issued 751 opinions, and entered 6,186 orders.

Do all of the Justices have to be present in order to hear a case? 

Article VII Section V of the Oklahoma Constitution states that “a majority of the members of the Supreme Court shall constitute a quorum and the concurrence of the majority of said Court shall be necessary to decide any question.” There only has to be a majority of the members that is five Justices, to hear a case. Justices may recuse themselves from hearing a case if a judge is unable to be impartial.  

Do the Justices have any responsibilities other than hearing and deciding cases? 

In addition to deciding cases, the Supreme Court is responsible for administering the state’s entire judicial system. The Court establishes rules of operation for all other courts in the state, formulates the rules for practice of law, which govern the conduct of all attorneys, and administers discipline in appropriate cases. The Supreme Court also has the exclusive authority over admissions to the bar of the state and disciplinary proceedings against attorneys. Many of the Justices make personal appearances to speak to members of the Bar, civic clubs, and educational groups. These appearances are made in an attempt to help all citizens understand the Court’s workings and to inform them of the decision-making process. The Justices are also called upon to administer official oaths of office to public officials. 

Who decides how many Justices are on the Court? Have there always been nine? 

Section 2 Article VII of the Oklahoma State Constitution states that the Supreme Court shall have nine Justices from separate districts. Originally, there were only five justices on the first Supreme Court, but four seats were added in 1917.  The state legislature has the power to change the number of Justices but has not exercised this power since the addition of seats in 1917.  

Has a Justice ever been impeached? 

Only one justice has been impeached in Oklahoma history. Justice Johnson was impeached in 1965 after a trial that showed he took a $150,000 bribe. 

How long is the term of a Supreme Court Justice? 

Justices serve a six-year term. At the end of a term, a majority of voters must be in favor of retention for the justice to serve another term

How is the Chief Justice selected? Does the most senior Associate Justice become Chief Justice? 

The Chief Justice, the first among equals, is selected by the sitting members of the Supreme Court. Every two years the Justices select a Chief Justice and a Vice-Chief Justice to serve.  

Are there qualifications to be a Justice? Do you have to be a lawyer or attend law school to be a Supreme Court Justice? 

Justices must be at least thirty years old, be a qualified elector in the Supreme Court District for at least one year, and a practicing attorney or judge of a court of record, or both, in Oklahoma for at least five years. 

How are Supreme Court Justices selected? 

When a vacancy occurs on the Court, the Judicial Nominating Commission, comprised of fifteen members, nominate the three most qualified candidates for appointment by the Governor.