Steven W. Taylor was appointed to the post of Chief Justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court in 2004 by Gov. Brad Henry. In 2007, Oklahoma Magazine named Taylor one of “100 Who Shaped Us,” a list of Oklahomans who influenced the first 100 years of the state. In 2009, he was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.
I never set out to become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court – that is not something you can plan for. After law school, I served four years active duty in the US Marine Corps. I was trained as an infantry platoon commander and later served as a prosecutor, defense counsel and then became a trial judge. That experience taught me that one day I wanted to serve on the Oklahoma bench. I came home to McAlester, practiced law, served as mayor, and in 1984, Gov. George Nigh appointed me to the District Court. I loved being a trial judge and wanted to do it the rest of my life. In 2004, the Supreme Court seat in my part of the state came open for the first time in more than 40 years. Gov. Brad Henry appointed me to the vacancy, and in 2010, I was elected Chief Justice.
I was the trial judge for the Oklahoma City bombing case against Terry Nichols for the state trial concerning the 160 civilians killed in the bombing. This was the largest first-degree murder case in the history of the United States. It focused the attention of the nation on the Oklahoma justice system, and I felt the huge responsibility of assuring a fair trial and a final verdict that would guarantee confidence in the Rule of Law and the fundamental fairness of our system of justice. That goal was accomplished.
The Supreme Court hears civil appeals and is the Constitutional head of the judicial branch of government and has supervisory control of all the state courts. We study every case that is sought to be heard by our Court and accept those that are first impression, major legal questions or involve Constitutional issues. We write opinions on every case we take after all nine Justices have fully reviewed every point of law and after the Justices have deliberated and discussed every opinion in our twice-a-week conferences. It is a very vigorous and detailed process, and I enjoy every minute of it. We have some very interesting debates among the Justices, and that assures the quality of our final work.
I have spent my entire professional life doing my small part to uphold the right to fair trial and equal justice in the courts of our state. That has been my mission for over 27 years as a judge and is my life’s work. And I enjoy that work more today than ever.