Osage County appears safe from judicial redistricting

Mike ErwinJournal-Capital

Osage County will remain a judicial district, unto itself, at least for now.

On Friday, key state lawmakers assured local court officials that a judicial re-districting bill — which had set off panic alarms among Osage County’s legal fraternity — would not be brought up again during the current legislative term, which is scheduled to conclude in two weeks.

House Bill 2416 would have added Pawnee County to state Judicial District 10, which is comprised solely of Osage County. Since the 1960s, Pawnee County has been paired with Tulsa County in Judicial District 14.

That familiar situation changed abruptly in mid-April, when H.B. 2416 went from being a harmless request for extending the functional life of the state board for shorthand reporters into a Senate proposal for restructuring the two state judicial districts. Shortly after it was reintroduced, the amended Bill was passed by the Senate, 36-10, on April 20.

According to Kane, it was only after the bill had cleared the Senate that it came to the attention of the courthouse workers who would be most seriously affected by the changes it proposed.

Kane spent considerable time and effort attempting to convince the legislators that they were trying to fix something that was not broken. Early this month, he presented the Capitol conference committee with a mountain of material to show the potential hazards the plan might pose.

While recommending further study on the matter, Kane cautioned the committee members about “rushing headlong into a Court re-districting project that had not been requested by any Court.”

Additional opposition to the proposal came from the Osage, Pawnee, and Kay County Bar Associations, as well as Tulsa County’s judges.

Statehouse observers were truly puzzled by the redistricting bill, especially in light of a looming state budget crisis and related issues.