The state I have chosen to compare to Oklahoma’s judicial process, is my home state of Texas. Texas and Oklahoma have a long standing rivalry that gets fought on the gridiron between the two states leading football programs, the unbridled passion that these two states share is akin to a big and little brother affection. The judicial process of these two states might very well be night and day of each other, but it works for the individual states because of the logistics and each states constitution, which is sacred to each state in its own right.
I will conduct this comparison by starting with the highest court and working my way down to the smallest, with a comparison of what is the same and different. Texas and Oklahoma share a commonality with their respective supreme courts each state has two, the Texas Supreme Court which handles all the appeals involving civil matters, and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals that takes care of the appeals involving criminal matters.
Oklahoma has the Oklahoma Supreme Court which is the court of last resort in all civil matters and all matters concerning the Oklahoma Constitution and the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals is the Oklahoma court of last resort involving all criminal matters. The biggest difference is that in Texas the Texas Supreme Court is not really supreme when it comes to a jurisdictional fight between the two high courts because both are co-equal under Article V, Section 1 of the Texas constitution.
There are fourteen Courts of Appeals which has the jurisdiction of everything except death penalty cases which are automatically sent to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to handle. There are 80 justices that serve the courts, all courts must have a minimum of three justices unless en banc is asked for. The Texas legislature shifts counties between courts to ensure that no court is overburdened. Oklahoma has the Oklahoma Supreme Court, this court is divided into four divisions of the Civil Court of Appeals, with two courts located in Tulsa and Oklahoma City three judges that make a determination with a majority rule.
Texas has 456 district courts that have jurisdiction over felony, title and land, and election contest cases, while also sharing jurisdiction with county and justice of the peace courts on most everything covering family and civil cases. These courts are specialized to handle a certain type of case load whether it be family, criminal or civil cases. There is only one judge per court and an odd thing found only in Texas instead of adding more judges to a court Texas just adds another court all together, which means that there may be many courts in the same building with their own unique name and number.
There are only 77 district courts in Oklahoma, which will handle civil and criminal cases. These courts have single or multiple judges with one being an associate district judge that will be in charge. It is further divided into nine Judicial Administrative Districts, with one judge serving as the Presiding Judge with the responsibility of district administration. Texas has what is known as Probate Courts which handles cases concerning probate (the administration of a will), this in turn cause jurisdictional problems with district courts.
There is no specialized probate court in Oklahoma, jurisdiction for probate cases falls to the district court that you reside in. There are 254 counties in Texas and that means we have that we have 254 county courts. These courts have jurisdiction over “Class A and B” misdemeanors, civil cases with moderate amounts of monetary value, and the appellate court for justice of the peace and municipal court cases. Oklahoma does not have county courts like Texas does.
Oklahoma has a special court called the Workers Compensation Court of Existing Claims court, claims are heard by a single judge in either Tulsa or Oklahoma City, they may appeal to a three judge panel called the Court En Banc, appeals for the Court En Banc are heard by the Oklahoma Supreme Court. This court is set to expire in 2020. The district courts of Texas handle workers’ compensation cases if they arise, most case are resolved by the Texas Department of insurance.
Oklahoma has a court that is responsible for keeping an eye on the tax process it is the Oklahoma Court on Tax Review which handles cases involving illegal taxes levied by county and/or city government. The cases are reviewed at the district court level which will convene a panel of three judges with a majority rule can be appealed to the Supreme Court. In Texas the district courts handle the tax cases that falls in their districts. Municipal courts in Texas must be voter approved in an incorporated city, they handle cases that are city ordnance related while sharing jurisdiction on “Class C” misdemeanors with the justice of the peace court.
In Oklahoma the Municipal courts have the jurisdiction over violations of city ordinances, with the exception of Oklahoma City and Tulsa they are considered courts of no record. The Justice of the Peace Court is the lowest level court in Texas. It handles cases where there are only fines, exclusive civil matters of 200$ or less, and civil matters up to 10,000$. The number of JP’s each county can have is determined by the size of the county. Oklahoma does not have a JP court system.
Oklahoma has two independent courts which are the Court on the Judiciary and Court of Impeachment. The Judiciary court is responsible for removing judges that commit illegal acts while the Impeachment court handles all impeachment charges against the Governor or any other state elected official. Judges in Oklahoma for the supreme court, court of criminal appeals and court of civil appeals all server six-year terms with retention elections while district courts hold nonpartisan elections and server four-year terms.
Judges in Texas supreme court, court of criminal appeals and court of appeals serve six-year terms through partisan elections, district, county and justice of the peace courts also go through partisan elections but only serve four-year terms. While both states have different approaches to conduct the business of judicial systems and processes throughout each state, they do so to be as convenient as possible to the public. Both states rely on their own constitution which is sacred to each state in its own right to help to keep the balance of power through out each of the branches of government on a state level.