How Does the Oklahoma Civil Court of Appeals Work?
In the State of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals is the immediate appellate court, and it functions to hear civil cases assigned by the Supreme Court. Hence, the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals is a court of limited jurisdiction. Unlike the other appellate courts in the United States, the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals cannot be directly appealed to by a lower court. Litigations brought before the Court of Civil Appeals include:
- Lawsuits involving the law of property but does not include cases of property-related crimes,
- Legal actions about a breach of contract,
- Cases involving a violation of trust,
- Judicial proceedings that fall under tort law in the state of Oklahoma.
The judicial authority of the Court of Civil Appeals gives it the power to reaffirm, amend, or overturn a lower court’s decision. The court can also choose to remand a case to the lower court for further proceedings. Parties involved in civil litigation can appeal to the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals’ decision to the Supreme Court. The Court of Civil Appeals can also allow a case review if most of the Supreme Court grants certiorari justices.
Most civil cases appealed to the Supreme Court are assigned to the Court of Civil Appeals, except for issues that challenge the State of Oklahoma’s laws or a treaty or statutes of the United States. The Supreme Court may decide to retain litigations considered to be of general importance or interest, and can also recall a case designated to the Court of Civil Appeals.
There are twelve justices in the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals, and the court assigns three judges to each of the four divisions in Oklahoma. The gubernatorial appointment is the method used to select justices in Oklahoma, and it involves the governor choosing a suitable person from the list of the three candidates. The Oklahoma Judicial Nominating Commission chooses the candidates’ names to appear on the governor’s list. The commission receives the application of interested candidates, reviews the documents, and interviews the applicants before selecting.
The qualifications for applying to be a Court of Civils Appeals judge include being a qualified elector for at least a year and being a licensed practicing attorney or a judge of a court of record for a minimum of four years.
Appointed justices can serve for life but must stand for a retention election every six years. If the judge is elected to continue, the judge serves another six-year term or else, a new judge is selected. When the death, retirement, resignation, or removal of a sitting judge occurs, a new judge is chosen to fill the vacancy. A gubernatorial appointment selects the new judge, and the judge serves until the end of the term of whom they replaced.
The Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals has four divisions with locations in Tulsa and Oklahoma City. The addresses of divisions in Oklahoma are as follows:
Denver Davison Building
1915 N Stiles Ave
Oklahoma City, OK 73105
440 South Houston
Tulsa, OK 74127
The Oklahoma Judiciary has an electronic database to search for case files. On the website, specific court records can be found and accessed if the case number is known. However, not all Court of Civil Appeals case records might be accessible to the public as the court may declare some case documents confidential and restrict access.
The duration of time for resolving cases assigned to the Court of Civil Appeals is uncertain and can take up to a year. The six processes that happen from the filing of an appeal to its final resolution include:
- The filing of the appeal with the Supreme Court begins the process of appealing a case.
- The court compiles the record for the appeal with the effort of the opposing party. The appeal record should contain the submissions of materials relevant to the case. The deadline for the completion of the record is six months.
- A brief in chief is filed at this point to show the appellate court the errors made during the initial proceedings that warrant a reversal for the aggrieved party. After the brief in chief, the opposing party has to file its answer brief within 40 days. Following this action, the appellant has to respond within 20 days with a final brief.
- The case may be allocated to the Court of Civil Appeals by the Supreme Court or retain its case. For cases transferred to the Court of Civil Appeals, there is no time limit in which the court has to issue an opinion.
- If any of the parties is not satisfied with the Court of Civil Appeals’ opinion, it is possible to request a review of the opinion. If the Supreme Court chooses to take the case, the period to resolve the litigation might increase as there is also no allocated time as to which the Supreme Court will issue its opinion.
- The final act on the part of the court is to issue a mandate. The court’s opinion on the mandate is considered final, and the Supreme Court can no longer review the case.