Merit selection bills introduced in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin

The summer/interim months have seen only a marginal reduction in the amount of activity surrounding judicial selection. Merit selection proponents have 3 new bills in two states to point to in their efforts.

On August 22, Pennsylvania HB 1815 (Constitutional Amendment) and HB 1816 providing for a merit selection system for appellate judges (Supreme, Superior, and Commonwealth courts) was introduced. Under the constitutional amendment, the Governor would select a name from a list of 5 provided from an Appellate Court Nominating Commission for Senate confirmation. Moreover, the amendment spells out the criteria the Commission must use to examine the candidates and establishes the composition of the 15 member commission, with 4 chosen by the Governor who must not be lawyers and 4 by legislative leaders who must be lawyers but must not be judges. The remaining 7 are:

  1. dean of one of the law schools located in Pennsylvania
  2. designee from bar associations
  3. designee from business organizations designee
  4. designee from civic organizations
  5. designee from professional associations
  6. designee from public safety organizations
  7. designee from unions

HB 1816 spells out details of how each of the above groups is defined, their designee chosen, and details about the commission’s operations.

About a month later on September 29, Wisconsin SJR 42 was introduced. The constitutional amendment would establish a merit selection system for that state’s appellate judges (Supreme Court and Court of Appeals).

It is similar to Pennsylvania HB 1815 in that it provides for the Governor to select a name from a list of 5 provided by a commission and requires the person chosen be subject to Senate confirmation. Unlike Pennsylvania HB 1815, it leaves the commission membership entirely up to the legislature and makes no mention of whether judges are to be retained via retention election or otherwise. In that sense it looks more like the proposal in Tennessee to put that state’s merit selection system explicitly in the state’s constitution (SJR 183, see prior post here).

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