- Associated Press - Friday, September 18, 2015

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Jari Askins, a former Democratic state legislator, special judge and lieutenant governor, has been hired to oversee Oklahoma’s court system, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Reif announced on Friday.

Askins, 62, will replace retiring Administrative Director of the Courts Michael Evans, effective Oct. 1.

A native of Duncan, Askins has served in numerous roles in every branch of government, most recently as a special adviser to Gov. Mary Fallin for the Oklahoma Department of Human Services implementing a court-ordered plan to improve the state’s foster care system. Before that she was executive director of the Pardon and Parole Board, associate provost for external relations at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, lieutenant governor, state representative, deputy general counsel in the governor’s office, and special judge.

“We think that her contacts alone, the networking that she would have in place to coordinate and be a liaison to a diverse group of entities - it’s unequaled is the way I would describe it,” Reif said. “It’s very unique, and it will be very beneficial to both Jari performing that job and to the court system.”

Reif said Askins’ hiring was a “conference decision” in which all nine justices participated.

She will earn the same as a judge on the Court of Civil Appeals, or $138,235.

As administrative director of the courts, Askins will coordinate judicial operations and personnel throughout the state and oversee payroll, training, the Oklahoma Supreme Court Network, research and other responsibilities. Her office also will provide support for the Judicial Nominating Commission and other court-related boards and commissions.

Fallin, who defeated Askins in the governor’s race in 2010, said she appreciated her former opponent’s work over the last six months to improve the state’s child welfare services.

“She made a lot of progress in a very short period of time to ensure the Pinnacle Plan was being implemented appropriately,” Fallin said in a statement. “I wish her well in her new position.”

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