The Courts of this country serve a purpose. Their mission is about accountability, responsibility, and justice. They were established to insure that all men would have a place where wrongs could be put right. The judicial branch of government was also set up as a check on the authority of the legislative and executive branches of government. Our courts are protected by the United States Constitution and by the Constitution of the State of Oklahoma. The independence of the courts is fundamental to our ability to seek and obtain justice.
Today our legislative bodies are consumed with the never-ending need for campaign dollars. This means that money and special interests influence our law-makers to a greater degree today than at any other time in our history. In recent years this influence has found its focus on limiting a person’s access to the Courts, or in limiting the amount of money a citizen jury can give them when they are harmed by another. The basic premise behind this was simple, a corporation could make more money if they did not have to answer for the damage they occasionally cause in the name of commerce. In fact profits and losses would be much more predictable if a person’s claim were capped. Of course there is still no limit to the amount of harm a corporation can cause. So the cry went out about frivolous lawsuits and greedy trial lawyers. The funny thing is the limits, or caps, affected all lawsuits, not just frivolous cases. The Oklahoma Legislature passed several laws that directly affected your rights to civil justice. Some of which were determined to be unconstitutional by the Courts.
The legislature then decided it must be in control of selecting judges. Keep in mind that the judicial nominating and selection process had functioned without a problem, and without significant influence from partisan politics for many years. And in their hast to hand-select the referees to the game, the most political of all branches of government (and the most influenced by corporate campaign money) decided the rights of corporate citizens were more important than the rights of citizen citizens. So now we find ourselves at a crossroads.
Will we act to protect our basic freedoms, our access to the courts and our right to be heard, or not? Will we allow others to take away the one place where we can stand equal with everyone else or not? Is accountability and responsibility important to Oklahoma or not? Is our justice for sale, or is it worth defending? In a place where money is free speech and corporations are citizens, we need the courts more than ever. I invite you to join with me in examining the issues facing this state, and the courts today. Find out more today at http://www.courtfacts.org .