Changes to merit selection commissions advance in Indiana & South Dakota

Merit selection commissions may very well be changed in both Indiana and South Dakota in the coming days, but the South Dakota measure change may have little to do with animus against merit selection.

Indiana’s SB 103 changes that state’s Judicial Nominating Commission. Presently, the Commission is made up of

  • the Chief Justice (as chair)
  • 3 nonattorneys picked by the governor (1 per Court of Appeals district)
  • 3 attorney elected by the attorneys of the state (1 per Court of Appeals District)

Under SB 103 the governor would no longer be free to pick any nonattorney from a given Court of Appeals District. Instead, the 4 legislative leaders (House: Speaker & Minority leader; Senate: President pro tempore & minority leader) would provide the governor a list of at least 2 candidates.

SB 103 was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 7 and is currently on the Senate’s Second Reading Calendar.

The day before day SB 103 made its way through an Indiana Senate Committee, South Dakota HB 1072 was advancing in that state’s Senate State Affairs Committee.

Under SB 198, the state’s Judicial Qualifications Commission (which serves as both the merit selection commission for the supreme court AND the judicial disciplinary body for the state) would be altered to add 1 House and 1 Senate member. Citing possible separation of powers concerns, that was amended out, but the legislative leadership would pick individuals.

Current  SB 198 (original) SB 198 (as amended)
2 Circuit Court Judges, picked by Judicial Conference 2 Circuit Court Judges, picked by Judicial Conference 2 Circuit Court Judges, picked by Judicial Conference
3 bar members, picked by bar president 1 bar member, picked by bar president 1 bar member, picked by  state bar commissioners
2 nonattorneys, picked by governor 2 nonattorneys, picked by governor 2 nonattorneys, picked by governor
1 House member, picked by Speaker 1 person, picked by Speaker
1 Senate member, picked by President pro tem 1 person, picked by President pro tem

Interestingly, the sponsor claimed the impetus was another bill (SB 70) and was not about animus about the merit selection process. SB 70 would have created an  oversight council responsible for monitoring and reporting performance and outcome related to changes in the law related to criminal justice initiative. SB 70’s 14 member council as introduced would have had 6 by the executive branch (5 by Governor, 1 by Attorney General), 5 by the Chief Justice, but only 4 by the legislature. That was reduced to a 13 member commission with 5 by the executive branch (4 by Governor, 1 by Attorney General), 4 by the Chief Justice, and 4 by the legislature.

The changes to the Judicial Qualifications Commission advanced 9-0 out of the Senate State Affairs committee.

One thought on “Changes to merit selection commissions advance in Indiana & South Dakota

  1. Pingback: Legislation in Indiana, South Dakota would refine Merit Selection systems | judgesonmerit.org

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