Justice Gurich, who has served as a district judge in Oklahoma County since 1998, will succeed Justice Marian Opala, who passed away late last year. She is only the third woman in state history to be appointed to the Oklahoma Supreme 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 Justice Gurich from a list of three candidates compiled by the Judicial Nominating Commission. The other candidates were Lieutenant Governor Jari Askins, and The Honorable John Fisher, Judge on the Court of Civil Appeals. Justice Gurich postponed taking the oath until the Supreme Court resolved lawsuits involving the Judicial Nominating Commission, filed on December 20, 2010, eight days before the Judicial Nominating Commission conducted interviews of 14 applicants for the position. The original application list of 19 had been cut to 14 prior to the interviews and background investigations by the OSBI. The lawsuits were based on a constitutional amendment that changed the membership requirements and added two additional members to the Judicial Nominating Commission. The amendment was approved by voters on November 2, 2010.
After considering the extensive briefing and conducting oral argument on February 8, 2011, The Oklahoma Supreme Court handed down its unanimous decision on the morning on February 15, 2011. The decision held that the commission was comprised constitutionally and the nomination of candidates by the Judicial Nominating Commission and the appointment of Judge Gurich by Governor Henry was valid. District Judge Jerry Bass administered the oath of office to Justice Gurich at 4:00 pm on February 15 during a small ceremony at her church. On February 16, 2011, Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Noma Gurich reported for duty at the State Capitol.
On March 31, 2011, Noma Gurich was formally sworn in as the high court’s ninth Justice. Justice Gurich referred to the fact that instead of assuming her post in January, she chose to await the outcome of the lawsuits before beginning her role as a state Supreme Court Justice. “After I was nominated, I stayed away from my colleagues,” she said to a standing-room only audience in the Supreme Court courtroom in the Oklahoma State Capitol. “I let them make their own decisions, and when the decision was in my favor, I showed up for work.”
“It’s about time,” Justice Yvonne Kauger said. Justice Kauger, the second woman to serve on the high court, was appointed in 1985.
The court’s ninth justice, Gurich replaces Justice Opala who died October 11, 2010. Since Opala’s death, the court has worked without a full slate of justices—a fact referenced by the Supreme Court Chief Justice, Steven Taylor, as he adjourned the ceremony. “Now we are nine,” he said.