As the strength of the Oklahoma judiciary, district courts have general jurisdiction over almost all civil and criminal matters within their sphere of influence. Oklahoma has 77 district courts, each with one or more district judges and an associate district judge. The judges are elected, in a nonpartisan manner, to serve a four-year term. In the event of a vacancy in any of the district courts, the governor appoints a judge to serve until the next election. A special judge may be appointed to assist in the event of a heavy caseload.
Oklahoma is divided into nine Judicial Administrative Districts, involving several district courts to assure a well-organized system. From the judges of the district courts, one is selected to serve as the Presiding Judge, who is responsible for the administration of their district. The Presiding Judge is answerable to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
Candidates for district judge must be a practicing lawyer or judge for the past four years and must live in the districts in which they seek election. Associate judges must have been practicing lawyers or judges for the past two years.
Civil appeals are heard by the Oklahoma Supreme Court and criminal appeals are heard by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.