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Keating Urged to Take Stand Against Influencing Judges, Denounce New Rating System

Governor Keating should take a stand against an organization that is attempting to influence the decisions of Oklahoma judges, according to the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senator Brad Henry said there is an appearance that the Governor supports the initiative because Secretary of State Tom Cole's political consulting firm has been hired by the group.

"No one should be trying to influence the decisions of judges, either overtly or covertly. Our judicial system is based on fairness and impartiality, and should not be tampered with by forces outside of the courtroom," said Senator Henry.

"Whether it's true or not, it looks like Governor Keating is giving tacit approval to a group that's trying to improperly influence the judicial process. I think it's important for him to publicly condemn the effort."

The organization in question has dubbed itself "Oklahomans for Judicial Excellence." According to its literature, it was established to rate sitting judges on whether their decisions have had a "favorable economic impact." Judges who issue rulings deemed unfavorable to certain special interests are given low scores.

The group has already released a draft scorecard rating justices of the Oklahoma Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, district courts and associate district courts.

"Under the American system of justice, judges aren't supposed to favor one industry or interest over another. They're supposed to examine the law and make a decision based upon facts and evidence, not on what may or may not be good for someone's personal or special interest," said Senator Henry.

"The fact that a group out there is actively trying to tip the scales of justice in their favor should alarm and enrage every Oklahoman who values a fair and impartial legal system."

According to an OJE rating card, the political consulting firm of Tom Cole is actively involved in the effort, providing its "expert procedures" to help devise the judicial rating system. Senator Henry said Cole's involvement puts the Governor in an awkward position.

"As state officials, we should all be working to preserve the integrity of our judicial system, not assisting someone who may be trying to influence it," said Senator Henry.

The Shawnee legislator is calling on Governor Keating, a fellow attorney and former prosecutor, to actively oppose the effort to influence judicial decisions, formally going on record against it.

"Of all people, the chief executive of this state should value and vigilantly defend a fair and even-handed justice system. Governor Keating should take a strong stand in favor of impartial judges and courts.

"As a former prosecutor, he should know better than anyone how important it is to protect our judges and courts from outside tampering. He should declare his opposition to any attempt to influence judicial decisions and should denounce the biased OJE rating system," said Senator Henry.

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Senate Communications Division (405) 521-5605