Ohio: Senate approves resolution directing Ohio Supreme Court justice show cause before the legislature why he should not be removed from office

A plan to remove-by-address Ohio Supreme Court William O’Neill was filed earlier this week (news reports here and here) approved by the Senate 25-8 yesterday.

HCR 17 and SCR 20 as filed invoke the legislature’s power to remove from office a judge if 2/3rds of the House and Senate agree (Art. IV, Sec. 17).

Judges may be removed from office, by concurrent resolution of both houses of the general assembly, if two-thirds of the members, elected to each house, concur therein; but, no such removal shall be made, except upon complaint, the substance of which shall be entered on the journal, nor, until the party charged shall have had notice thereof, and an opportunity to be heard.

This is a separate from the power to impeach found elsewhere in the state constitution (Art. II, Sec. 23)

HCR 17/SCR 20 claim O’Neill has violated the state’s Code of Judicial Conduct by running for governor and announcing positions on a host of policy issues but declining to resign from the Supreme Court.

Justice O’Neill has responded that he will resign from the court on Jan. 26 and he looks forward to delivering lawmakers “a Douglas MacArthur-level farewell address.”

Iowa: After state’s chief justice issues orders limiting carrying of guns into courthouses, state senator introduces plan to dock judicial pay down to as low as $25,000

Last year Iowa enacted a law allowing expanded carrying of firearms into “public buildings” and the question arose what this meant for courthouses and courtrooms. Chief Justice Mark Cady in June 2017 issued an order in June banning courthouse carry and later following up in December 2017 with another order that narrowed the June order but that still left the decision ultimately up to the local Chief Judge.

In response, at least one member of the Iowa Senate is looking at the possibility of reducing judicial salaries.

SF 2044 as filed provides that if the supreme court or local court issues a no-carry-in-a-courthouse order

  1. The local court must pay a rent of $2 per square foot per month to the county for the area of a courthouse used by the court.
  2. The judicial branch would have to provide armed security in the courthouse. Payment for the armed security would come from the Chief Judge’s salary on a dollar-for-dollar basis until the Chief Judge’s salary hit $25,000.

SF 2044 has been filed in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Virginia: Senate bill could open courthouses to carrying of firearms; latest in national trend

I’ve written on this blog and elsewhere (such as here) about the ongoing press in state legislatures to opening courthouses to the carrying of firearms. Now Virginia’s legislature looks to enter this area.

Current law generally prohibits courthouses carry. SB 338 as filed would provide a major exemption

However, nothing in this section shall prohibit a person who may lawfully possess a firearm or ammunition for a firearm from possessing in or transporting into any area within a courthouse that is being used outside of the courthouse’s normal hours of operation exclusively for purposes other than judicial proceedings a firearm or ammunition for a firearm.

As the official impact statement indicates “Essentially, the proposal would narrow the number of individuals who may be prosecuted for possessing or transporting a firearm into a courthouse.”

SB 338 has been filed in the Senate Courts of Justice Committee.

Oklahoma: Senate bill requires retention election ballots include age of judge, years of service, and appointing governor

Oklahoma’s appellate courts use a retention system where voters are given the name of the judge and asked (per the state’s constitution): “Shall (Here insert name of Justice or Judge) of (Here insert the title of the court) be retained in Office?” Said question shall be followed by the words “YES” and “NO”.”

A member of the Oklahoma Senate, however, wants more information to be placed on the ballot. Per SB 971 as introduced below the “shall…be retained in Office?” language would appear.

  • The age of the justice or judge as of the date of the General Election
  • The number of years served in the position as justice or judge
  • The name of the Governor who originally appointed the justice or judge to the court

SB 971 has bee prefiled for the 2018 session set to start in February.

Mississippi: Bill to drug test judges and other elected officials filed; latest in 3 decades of bills debated/enacted on this subject

Over the last several decades there has been a push to drug test those who are on any kind of public assistance and, in response, efforts by state legislators to put the same sort of drug testing requirements on public officials, including in many instances judges (I discussed this phenomena at length here and here and here and here).

This year’s version comes from Mississippi HB 490. The bill requires annual drug testing of all elected officials, including specifically judges, to determine eligibility to receive their compensation. The language of HB 490 is effectively verbatim that of HB 472 which would require drug testing for all recipients of state or local funded benefits.

If enacted, HB 490 is likely to face a court challenge. In 1997, the same year Louisiana mandated drug testing for certain adult recipients of public assistance (HB 2435), the state enacted a process for random drug testing of all “elected officials” (HB 646). The elected officials plan was struck down in 1998 by the Federal courts when Justice of the Peace Phillip O’Neill and other elected officials challenged the law. (O’Neill v. Louisiana., E.D. La. 1998, 61 F.Supp.2d 485, affirmed 197 F.3d 1169, cert. denied 120 S.Ct. 2740, 530 U.S. 1274, 147 L.Ed.2d 2005).

Gavel to Gavel named ABA Journal Web 100 winner for 2017; inducted into Blawg Hall of Fame


I just received word that for the fifth time in six years Gavel to Gavel the blog has been named one of the ABA Journal top blaws (law blogs).

In addition, Gavel to Gavel has been inducted into the ABA Journal’s Blawg Hall of Fame.

It is an incredible honor and it (literally) could not have happened without the support of you, the readers. Thanks!

I also want to thank Thomson Reuters, which provides the access to the legislative database that is the backbone of Gavel to Gavel.

North Carolina: Legislature wants to redraw all judicial districts, votes not to hold judicial primaries next year, governor vetoes, legislature overrides

Since at least 2015 North Carolina’s legislature has taken a particular interest in redrawing the maps for the state’s judicial districts (see here). Having switched to partisan judicial races in the last 12 months, the anticipation was that NC judges would run in primaries in the existing districts in the 2018. Now, however, it appears there will be no primaries at all.

SB 656, entitled the Electoral Freedom Act of 2017, includes various changes to election laws in the state. Most critically for the judiciary, however, was Section 4, which eliminates the 2019 primaries for judges and district attorneys.

North Carolina’s governor vetoed the bill, claiming in part that this denied people the right to vote on their judges and was a first step to transfer the power to select judges away from the people and to the legislature. News reports indicate a “assisted appointment” selection plan has been discussed in the North Carolina General Assembly that would effective give the legislature control over initial selection/appointment to judicial office.

The legislature then proceeded to override the veto.

Meanwhile, the effort to redraw judicial districts (HB 717) was approved by the House in October and is in the Senate.