OKLAHOMA CITY -- Gov. Brad Henry on Friday appointed Pottawatomie County District Judge Douglas L. Combs to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, Henry's fifth appointment to the nine-member court.
Combs will succeed Justice Rudolph Hargrave, Oklahoma's most senior judge who is retiring from the state's highest court after more than 30 years.
Henry said Combs, a district judge since 2003, has the temperament, intellect and experience to be an outstanding Supreme Court justice. Henry selected Combs from three candidates whose names were submitted by the Judicial Nominating Commission.
"He has a long history of public service, and I know he will perform his new duties with the greatest professionalism, integrity and sense of duty to the citizens of our state," the governor said.
Henry also praised Hargrave's three decades of service on the high court.
"Justice Hargrave has been an invaluable member of the court and an incredible public servant," Henry said. "His extensive knowledge of the law and experienced opinion will be missed."
Hargrave, 85, was appointed by then-Gov. David Boren in 1978. He served as a county judge in Seminole County, as a Seminole County Superior Court Judge and as a district judge before being appointed to the state Supreme Court. His last day will be Dec. 31.
Combs served as a special district judge beginning in 1995 and has also worked in private practice, served as a deputy clerk for the state Supreme Court and as an assistant state attorney general.
Combs attended St. Gregory's Junior College, now St. Gregory's University, in Shawnee and the University of Oklahoma to earn a bachelor's degree in political science. He earned his law degree from the Oklahoma City University School of Law in 1976.
Combs did not immediately return a telephone call to his office in Shawnee seeking comment on his appointment.
Henry, who took office in 2003, is term-limited and will step down in January, when Gov.-elect Mary Fallin will be sworn in. Aside from Combs, Henry's other appointments to the Supreme Court are Tom Colbert, John F. Reif, Chief Justice James E. Edmondson and Steven W. Taylor, the court's current vice chief justice who will become chief justice on Jan. 1.
The death of Justice Marian Opala on Oct. 11 at the age of 89 created a vacancy on the high court, but a spokesman for Henry, communications director Paul Sund, said it is not clear if Henry has enough time remaining in office to appoint a successor.
Candidates submit applications to the Judicial Nominating Commission, which interviews each candidate and submits their names for background checks by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation before three finalists are selected for the governor's consideration, Sund said.
The governor then reviews the background information on each nominee and interviews the finalists before making an appointment, he said.