John Kane
District Court Judge M. John Kane, IV, has been appointed by Gov. Kevin Stitt to the Oklahoma State Supreme Court. (NonDoc)

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt announced his first appointment to the Oklahoma State Supreme Court this afternoon: M. John Kane, IV, an Osage County district judge in the state’s 10th Judicial District.

Kane has held his district court position since 2005, and he was one of seven applicants to the Judicial Nominating Commission for the District 1 Oklahoma Supreme Court post, which was vacated by the retirement of Justice John F. Reif.

“Judge Kane’s extensive record serving the 10th Judicial District and his broad support in the community, and from across the state, speak toward his qualifications to join the highest court in Oklahoma,” Stitt said in a press release. “Kane is an accomplished judge with a reputation for fairness and a passion to ensure the legal system is serving the needs of the people. I am confident Kane will serve with integrity, honor and a dedication to uphold the rule of law.”

Kane, a lifelong resident of Osage County, referenced his family in his statement.

“My great-grandfather was a framer of our State Constitution, and it is truly an honor to be selected to stand as a defender of this treasured deposit of wisdom,” Kane said in the governor’s press release. “I appreciate the governor’s confidence in me, and I vow to impartially and fairly conduct the business of the Court and serve the people of Oklahoma with full and undivided devotion.”

Kane’s was one of three names provided to Stitt by the Oklahoma Judicial Nominating Commission, an independent body that accepts applicants for judicial positions and provides a slate of finalists for selection by the governor. The two other options before Stitt were Deborah A. Barnes, a member of the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals, and Russell C. Vaclaw, an associate district judge for Washington County.

Stitt’s press release provided biographical background about M. John Kane, IV:

Kane began practicing as an attorney in 1987 at Kane, Kane & Kane Law Offices, P.C., a law firm founded by his father and grandfather in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. During this time, he also served as an administrative law judge for the Department of Human Services-Child Support Division from 1999-2005 and as an assistant district attorney from 1987 to 1989.

Kane received a B.S. in agricultural economics and accounting from Oklahoma State University in 1984 and a J.D. from the University of Oklahoma College of Law in 1987. Kane and his wife, Cynthia, have been married for 33 years and have four children.

Gentner Drummond, a former candidate for attorney general who practices law in Osage County, praised Kane’s appointment in a statement to NonDoc.

“John Kane is perhaps the last of the rural jurists who is eminently qualified to assume the state’s highest judicial office,” Drummond said. “He is fair to a fault, a strict constitutionalist and equally empathetic to the business person and the homeless person.”

Drummond said Kane “fully understands” the role of the judiciary.

“Although he is a man of faith, he is not prejudicial to those who worship a different God or no god at all,” Drummond said. “If Lady Justice were to identify as a male, John Kane would be the model. John is a friend who is not afraid to rule against me, even when he’s wrong.”

After John Kane, Stitt will have second Supreme Court choice

Stitt has a second appointment to the Oklahoma Supreme Court in his future as well, with Justice Patrick Wyrick having resigned in April to assume a federal bench. The following individuals applied to the JNC earlier this year for Wyrick’s vacant District 2 position:

  • Gregory A. Barnard, Ardmore
  • Mark R. Campbell, Durant
  • Marion D. Fry, Poteau
  • Timothy E. Mills, McAlester
  • Dustin P. Rowe, Tishomingo
  • Jonathan K. Sullivan, Poteau
  • Jana K. Wallace, Antlers

The JNC will send three of those applicants to Stitt for final selection.

(Update: This post was updated at 2:12 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 17, to include comment from Gentner Drummond. It was updated again at 4:14 p.m. to add a word omitted in Kane’s quote.)