Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Robert Bell Not On High Court List; Askins, Fischer, Gurich Are Names Sent To Governor Henry

The Judicial Nominating Commission may have saved Governor Henry a tough choice when it did not include Court of Civil Appeals Judge Robert D. Bell on its list of three finalists for the vacancy on the Supreme Court.

The Commission's list of three: Lt. Governor Jari Askins, Court of Civil Appeals Judge John Fischer and Oklahoma County District Judge Noma Gurich.

Bell was one of 14 applicants; Henry's critics had seized on that to speculate that Henry would name him to the Court. Henry and the Bell family have longtime ties. Richard Bell, Norman attorney, has been a Henry supporter and as chairman of the Sarkey's Foundation, was instrumental in the hiring of Henry's wife as executive director. Henry appointed Robert D. Bell, Richard Bell's nephew, to his present post and appointed Bell's son to the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents.

The Commission's list followed an all-day session of interviews of candidates to replace the late Justice Marian Opala, who died in October.

Controversy has dogged the process thus far, with claims the Commission is not legally constituted and with requests that it wait until new members are named as the result of passage of a state question in November. Legal challenges are due to be heard.

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