State ex rel. Blankenship v. Freeman, No. 42709

CourtSupreme Court of Oklahoma
Writing for the CourtIRWIN; JACKSON; WILLIAMS
Citation440 P.2d 744
Docket NumberNo. 42709
Decision Date23 April 1968
PartiesSTATE of Oklahoma ex rel. G. T. BLANKENSHIP, Attorney General, Plaintiff, v. Harold FREEMAN, Chairman, Corporation Commission of Oklahoma, Defendant. STATE of Oklahoma ex rel. G. T. BLANKENSHIP, Attorney General, Plaintiff, v. Ray C. JONES, Member, Corporation Commission of Oklahoma, Defendant.

Page 744

440 P.2d 744
1968 OK 54
STATE of Oklahoma ex rel. G. T. BLANKENSHIP, Attorney
General, Plaintiff,
v.
Harold FREEMAN, Chairman, Corporation Commission of
Oklahoma, Defendant.
STATE of Oklahoma ex rel. G. T. BLANKENSHIP, Attorney
General, Plaintiff,
v.
Ray C. JONES, Member, Corporation Commission of Oklahoma, Defendant.
No. 42709.
Supreme Court of Oklahoma.
April 23, 1968.

Page 747

Syllabus by the Court

1. If a Corporation Commissioner shall have done any act, which under our Constitution, shall constitute a forfeiture or vacation of his office, this Court, under the authority of Article VII, § 4, of the Constitution, and Title 12 O.S.1961, Sections 1531 and 1532, has jurisdiction of an action in the nature of quo warranto and the power to make a judicial determination that such officer has forfeited or vacated his office.

2. Corporation Commissioners are liable and subject to impeachment.

3. The Constitutional Article governing impeachment of certain state officers does not render ineffective as to those officers liable and subject to impeachment, other constitutional provisions governing forfeiture or vacation of office.

4. This Court does not have the jurisdiction and power to make a judicial determination that a Corporation Commissioner has forfeited or vacated his office for violation of his oath of office as prescribed by Article XV, § 1, of the Constitution, until such commissioner 'shall have been convicted of * * * having violated said oath', in a court of competent jurisdiction.

5. If a Corporation Commissioner becomes interested in the stock or earnings in a type of company or association specifically mentioned in Article IX, § 16, of the Constitution, or becomes engaged in 'an occupation or business inconsistent with his duties as such commissioner', his office shall become vacant.

6. If a Corporation Commissioner voluntarily becomes interested in the stock of a 'pipe line company * * * operated for hire,' his office shall become vacant.

7. Ownership of stock in an oil or gas company, or the acquisition of oil and gas properties by a Corporation Commissioner, does not, under all circumstances, constitute 'engaging in an occupation or business inconsistent with his duties as such commissioner'; but such ownership and acquisition, may or may not be 'inconsistent with his duties as such commissioner', depending upon the facts and circumstances.

8. If an occupation, business activity or business activities, in which a Corporation Commissioner participates or with which he is connected, operates as an effective interference with the discharge of the functions of his office, he shall be deemed to be 'engaged in an occupation or business inconsistent with his duties as such commissioner.' 'Effective interference' as above employed, means any interest in any occupation, business activity or business activities, which is affected in a meaningful manner by the Corporation Commission's exercise of its jurisdiction.

9. The prohibitory provisions of Article IX, § 16, of the Constitution are self-executing, but due process as embodied in Article 2, § 7, Oklahoma Constitution, requires that if the official whose office is sought to be declared vacated, raises contested issues of fact, he must be granted an opportunity to litigate in a proper judicial forum, all fact issues which may be involved.

10. Facts to which the law is to be applied in the process of adjudication are called adjudicative facts; these are facts 'about the parties' and must be ascertained from formal proof, as distinguished from 'legislative facts' which are general and

Page 748

may be judicially noticed from legislative source materials for the purpose of determining the meaning, effect, content or validity of enactments.

11. The terms of Title 12 O.S.1961, Sections 486 and 502, do not operate to abrogate the time-honored prohibition against reception of hearsay evidence, and documentary evidence in the form of public records, which would be inadmissible if those who prepared such records were present as witnesses, will not be rendered competent merely because it is embodied in an official document.

12. Generally, documentary evidence, which is not within the public records exception to the hearsay rule, may not be admitted in original proceedings before the Supreme Court, without proper identification by a testimonial predicate.

13. Generally, any prior statement of a party-litigant, which constitutes an admission against interest, whether oral or written, under oath or unsworn, is admissible as substantive, original or primary evidence, if relevant to the matter in controversy, and such admission may be proved by questioning the party making it or by any competent witness who heard it.

14. Where a proceeding is brought in this Court for a judicial determination that certain acts committed by a state officer constitutes a vacation of his office, this Court may not, through the medium of judicial notice, accept as evidence on contested fact issues presented, any adjudicative facts either elicited or predetermined by a Senate Investigating Committee.

The Attorney General filed an application for this court to assume original jurisdiction in the above styled cases. In case No. 42,709, the Attorney General seeks a judicial determination that certain acts committed by Harold Freeman, while a Corporation Commissioner, constitute a forfeiture or vacation of his office. In case No. 42,710, the Attorney General seeks a judicial determination that certain acts committed by Ray C. Jones, while a member of the Corporation Commission, constitute a forfeiture or vacation of his office. Cases consolidated under case No. 42,709. Application to assume original jurisdiction granted; proceedings continued as herein specified.

G. T. Blankenship, Atty. Gen., of Oklahoma, Brian H. Upp, Asst. Atty. Gen. of Oklahoma, for plaintiff.

J. A. Rinehart, El Reno, D. E. Martin, Tulsa, W. D. Hart, Pauls Valley, for defendants.

IRWIN, Vice Chief Justice.

Harold Freeman and Ray C. Jones are presently serving as members of the Corporation Commission of Oklahoma. In an original proceeding, in the nature of quo warranto, filed in this Court, No. 42,709, the Attorney General of the State of Oklahoma, with the consent of the Governor of Oklahoma, seeks a judicial determination that certain acts committed by Harold Freeman, while a member of the Corporation Commission, constitute a forfeiture or vacation of his office as Corporation Commissioner. In an original proceeding, in the nature of quo warranto, filed in this Court, No. 42,710, the Attorney General of the State of Oklahoma, with the consent of the Governor of Oklahoma, seeks a judicial determination that certain acts committed by Ray C. Jones, while a member of the Corporation Commission, constitute a forfeiture or vacation of his office as Corporation Commissioner.

We will refer to the Attorney General as State, and Harold Freeman and Ray C. Jones as defendants unless otherwise specifically named.

State alleged four separate counts against each defendant. Two counts are based upon alleged violations of their constitutional oaths of office as prescribed by Article XV, § 1, of the Constitution; and two counts are based upon allegations that they had become interested in the stock or earnings of certain companies and had become engaged in occupations or businesses inconsistent

Page 749

with their duties as Corporation Commissioners, in violation of Article IX, § 16, of the Constitution.

Since the acts allegedly committed by both defendants are substantially the same in both proceedings, the two cases are consolidated as Case No. 42,709.

In separate answers filed by each defendant, both recognize that the allegations set forth in State's pleadings are public juris and of state wide concern. Both defendants join State in requesting this Court to assume original jurisdiction in both proceedings and judicially determine the issues presented.

We accept jurisdiction and are of the opinion that if a Corporation Commissioner shall have done any act, which under our Constitution, shall constitute a forfeiture or vacation of his office, this Court, under the authority of Article VII, § 4, of the Constitution, and Title 12 O.S.1961, Sections 1531 and 1532, has jurisdiction of an action in the nature of quo warranto and the power to make a judicial determination that such officer has forfeited or vacated his office.

In State's pleadings it is stated that these proceedings are based solely upon evidence gathered by the Senate Investigating Committee authorized by the Legislature of the State of Oklahoma, Senate Resolution No. 30, and House Joint Resolution No. 514, and no new evidence will be offered which has not already been presented under oath to the Senate Investigating Committee.

A transcript of the evidence gathered by the Senate Investigating Committee has not been filed in these proceedings and defendants challenge the admissibility of such transcript. As will be hereinafter shown, even if such transcript were filed, this Court may not, through the medium of judicial notice, accept as evidence on the contested fact issues presented, any adjudicative facts either elicited or predetermined by the Senate Investigating Committee. However, in view of the nature of these proceedings and defendants' request that we assume original jurisdiction and render a decision herein, we will proceed to determine the legal issues presented by State's pleadings and defendants' answers.

One of the preliminary issues presented is whether or not Corporation Commissioners are liable and subject to impeachment. State contends they are not and defendants contend they are. This issue and State's allegations and defendants' answers, place in issue certain basic questions. For clarification, we will consider and determine the issues presented under separate propositions and when pertinent, we will set forth...

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