Gov. Henry names Judge Gurich to Supreme Court
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Published: 07-Jan-2011

CapitolBeatOK Staff Report

Published: 07-Jan-2011

On his last full week day in office – Friday, January 7 – Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry announced the appointment of Judge Noma Gurich to the Oklahoma State Supreme Court.

Gurich, who has served as a district judge in Oklahoma County since 1998, will succeed Justice Marion Opala, who passed away on October 11.  

Gurich is the third woman in state history to be appointed to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. The first was Alma Wilson, who is deceased. The second was Yvonne Kauger, who still serves on the Court.

“This was an extremely difficult decision because all of the candidates are well respected and highly qualified,” said Gov. Henry. “I could not go wrong selecting any one of the nominees, but I could only choose one, and in the final analysis, I felt Noma Gurich had the best qualifications and experience to serve on the state’s highest court.

“During her distinguished legal career, Judge Gurich has compiled an exemplary record of service on the bench and has consistently demonstrated the judicial temperament and intellect necessary to be an outstanding Supreme Court Justice.  I know she will perform her new duties with great professionalism and integrity, and I greatly appreciate her willingness to serve.”

Gov. Henry selected Judge Gurich from a list of three candidates compiled by the Judicial Nominating Commission.

The commission’s process has been challenged since November passage of State Question 752, a ballot proposition that increased the number of commissioners, allotting two of the choices to the House Speaker and the President Pro Tem and changed some requirements for membership.

The two newest commissioners were appointed Friday morning by Kris Steele and Brian Bingman, respectively, and had no role in submission of Gurich’s name.

Late Friday afternoon, Senator Clark Jolley, an Edmond Republican, repeated a plea for the governor to allow the new commission to consider nominations, and for a legal challenge to the process to be heard. Jolley sent a press release soon after the Supreme Court decided to hold February 1 oral argument in a lawsuit brought by Oklahoma City attorney Jerry Fent challenging the entire commission process. In the matter, the justices asserted original jurisdiction in setting the date for argument.

Fent says the commission as currently constituted is invalid because its enabling provisions in law operate from the historic, rather than current, number of congressional districts. Fent’s litigation also asserts other deficiencies in the current process.

Judge Gurich has been a district judge in Oklahoma County since 1998 and acted as presiding judge from 2003-2004. She has also overseen the work of the state multi-county grand jury.

Additionally, Gurich served on the Oklahoma Workers Compensation Court for 10 years and worked in private practice.

Judge Gurich holds a bachelor’s degree from Indiana State University and a law degree from the University of Oklahoma College of Law.  She resides in Oklahoma City with her husband.

NOTE: Editor Patrick B. McGuigan contributed to this report.

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