Williamsburg, Virginia (April 25, 2014) -- Despite the resolution to recent developments concerning a controversial stay of execution in an Oklahoma death penalty case—the run-up to which had been characterized as a looming “constitutional crisis” by several legal observers—articles of impeachment were introduced April 23 against five members of the Oklahoma Supreme Court. The representative filing the articles—House Resolution 1059—accuses five members of the court of “willful neglect of duty,” according to comments the legislator made to the Associated Press.
Threats of removal from office for decisions in controversial cases are not new to America’s state court judges, who can be properly disciplined by judicial oversight bodies for ethical lapses. Legislative removal usually requires misbehavior in office or serious criminal wrongdoing. The ongoing crisis in Oklahoma marks the fourth time in four years that state high court judges have been threatened with impeachment over their role in decision making, according to research by the National Center for State Courts:
In none of these instances was any of the judges ultimately removed from office by the legislature.
The NCSC Backgrounder is designed to provide the media with statistics and facts related to current issues of interest.
The National Center for State Courts, headquartered in Williamsburg, Va., is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the administration of justice by providing leadership and service to the state courts. Founded in 1971 by the Conference of Chief Justices and Chief Justice of the United States Warren E. Burger, NCSC provides education, training, technology, management, and research services to the nation's state courts.