Jari Askins

Oklahoma Lt. Governor Jari Askins has applied for the Supreme Court's vacancy after the death of Justice Marian Opala Oct. 11.

Oklahoma Lt. Governor Jari Askins is one of 19 individuals who have applied for the now vacant state Supreme Court seat that was held by Justice Marian Opala, before his unexpected death in October.

Askins, who started her career in public service, said Opala was one of her law professors and studied under his direction.

“Of course, I began my career in public service on the bench and the opportunity to return to that branch of government is a wonderful opportunity,” she said Tuesday.

Askins, 57, believes she meets the residency requirements for Oklahoma County, where she has maintained a home since being elected to her current position, in 2006.

“I wish that it had not occurred this close to the election and I wish it had not been open because of Justice Opala’s death  ... but after the election I did receive a number of encouraging calls from here in Oklahoma County” she said.

Process for seating includes a Judicial Nominating Committee which reviews the first set of applicants. They then submit less than the original group, to Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations for background checks. The committee then conducts interviews on remaining candidates after the background checks are completed. From that group, they select three names which are submitted to the Oklahoma governor, who  chooses and makes appointment of one of the candidates.

The length of this process hinges on the background checks and a candidate could be chosen by either Gov. Brad Henry, or it could happen after Gov. elect Mary Fallin takes her oath of office.

Askins said of the 19 applicants, there are many really fine lawyers and good judges from Oklahoma County which made the list.

“The competition is extremely stiff,” she said.

While the code of judicial conduct prevents Askins from discussing or making too many statements, she acknowledged that she isn’t coming straight from active law practice.

“My application is different than others who have applied. Although I may not come from any immediate practice of law, for the last 16 years, I have been active in the development and passage of law so I would hope I bring a practical understanding (to the position),” she said.

Askins career in a courtroom began in Duncan in 1982 when she was appointed by Judge George Lindley to serve as special judge for the district. In January 2009, Askins stood in the same courtroom in Stephens County Courthouse to announce her bid for the Oklahoma Governor’s seat, but in November she lost that race to Mary Fallin.

Since the election, Askins has been continuing her duties as Lt. Gov. and is looking forward this week to returning to Duncan to spend Thanksgiving with her brother, Marty, and his family.

— Toni Hopper is a reporter for The Duncan Banner. She can be reached at 580-255-5354, Ext. 132 or by e-mail at: toni.hopper@duncanbanner.com.

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