Steven W. Taylor elected Chief Justice of state Supreme Court
Patrick B. McGuigan
Today (Thursday, November 4), members of the Supreme Court of Oklahoma elected Steven W. Taylor as Chief Justice. In the same proceeding, they selected Tom Colbert to serve as Vice Chief Justice.
The two jurists will serve in these new capacities from January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2012. Taylor is presently vice chief justice of the court, which is operating with nine members since the death of Marian Opala.
Justice Rudolph Hargrave has announced his retirement, meaning a second vacancy will emerge on the court. Hargrave came to the court in 1978, and has previously served as chief justice.
During his two terms in office, Gov. Brad Henry has appointed four justices to the court. He is expected to name a replacement for Justice Hargrave soon. He has met with three potential nominees. They are former state Sen. Bernice Shedrick of Stillwater, Civil Appeals Judge Douglas Gabbard, and District Judge Douglas Combs.
In his joint press conference with Governor-elect Mary Fallin yesterday, Henry said he would like to choose Opala’s successor, as well. The Judicial Nominating Commission, which submits possible nominees to governors in Oklahoma, is taking applications for Opala’s post through November 19.
Taylor is a Marine Corps veteran who served in private practice early in his legal career. The former mayor of McAlester, he was put on the state High Court in 2004 by Gov. Henry’s appointment.
Colbert is the first African-American to serve on the state Supreme Court. After serving on the state Court of Civil Appeals, including a stint as chief judge, he was named to the state High Court by Governor Henry in 2004.