Efforts to enact, modify, or end merit selection for judges: what is moving and what is not

February 27th, 2013 by Bill Raftery Leave a reply »

I’ve had several readers ask for a synopsis of what is gong on in states to enact, modify, or end merit selection in 2013. This post is intended to respond to those queries. The latest information can always be found at the Gavel to Gavel database located here.

Details below the fold.

Arizona HB 2600 Provides merit selection commissions must provide governor at least 5 names (constitution says at least 3 names) to fill a judicial vacancy. Approved by House Public Safety, Military and Regulatory Affairs Committee 2/12/13. Approved by House Rules Committee 2/25/13. On Committee of the Whole calendar #1 for 2/28/13.

Arizona HCR 2010 (Constitutional Amendment) Requires all those seeking elective office except judges be subject to partisan primaries. Provides that where judges are elected, including in yes/no retention elections, judge to self-identify on ballot political party they belong to. In House Federalism and Fiscal Responsibility Committee.

Arkansas HJR 1005 (Constitutional Amendment) Provides for merit selection system for state supreme court justices. Explicitly prohibits justice from engaging in partisan/party activity. In House State Agencies & Government Affairs Committee.

Connecticut HJR 17 (Constitutional Amendment) Provides probate judges are to be appointed via merit selection system currently used for Superior Court. In Joint Committee on Judiciary.

Florida Proposed Committee Bill CJS 13-03 Provides 4 members of 9 member judicial nominating commissions recommended by bar association would serve at the pleasure of the Governor (currently they serve 4 year terms). Approved as Proposed Bill by House Judiciary Committee’s Civil Justice Subcommittee 2/20/13.

Georgia HB 30 Creates Judicial Nominating Commission for appellate court vacancies. In House Judiciary Committee.

Hawaii HB 420 (Constitutional Amendment) Requires the judicial selection commission to publicly disclose its list of nominees for appointment to the office of the chief justice, supreme court, intermediate appellate court, circuit courts, or district courts concurrently with its presentation of that list to the governor or the chief justice. In House Judiciary Committee.

Hawaii SB 798 (Constitutional Amendment) Eliminates merit selection for state’s supreme court and provides instead for statewide elections. In Senate Judiciary Committee.

Illinois HJR 10 (Constitutional Amendment) Creates a Judicial Retention Commission in each Judicial District to evaluate the qualifications of Supreme and Appellate Court Judges seeking retention and creates a Judicial Retention Commission in each Judicial Circuit to determine the qualification for Judges for retention in the Circuit. Provides for the impaneling of additional Judicial Retention Commissions in a Circuit if more than 40 Judges have filed a declaration of candidacy for retention. Provides that Judges found unqualified by the Commissions may seek retention in retention elections. Provides that Judges found qualified are retained in office. In House Rules Committee.

Illinois HJR 15 (Constitutional Amendment) Creates merit selection system for state judges. In House Rules Committee.

Indiana SB 103 Provides that the nonattorney members of the judicial nominating commission shall be appointed by the governor from a list of recommended candidates submitted by the president pro tempore of the senate, the speaker of the house of representatives, the minority leader of the senate, and the minority leader of the house of representatives. Approved by full Senate 2/14/13.

Indiana SJR 6 (Constitutional Amendment) Ends merit selection in state. Provides that the governor fills vacancies on the supreme court and the court of appeals, subject to the approval of the senate. Provides that a justice of the supreme court or judge of the court of appeals is retained in office only if the justice or judge receives at least 67% of the total number of votes cast on the question of retention of the justice or judge. Provides that a law, judicial rule, decree, or order may not abridge the freedom of a judge, lawyer, candidate for judicial office, or any other person from: (1) speaking, writing, or otherwise expressing the person’s views freely regarding a political issue, political party, or candidate for office, including a candidate for a judicial office; or (2) making a donation of money, services, or property to a political party or a candidate for office, including a candidate for a judicial office. In Senate Judiciary Committee.

Indiana SJR 19 Revises judicial selection commissions. Keeps membership at 7, but provides bar to name only 1 member (currently 3); speaker of House and President Pro Tempore of Senate to name 1 each. Provides for Senate confirmation. Ends retention elections and requires re-confirmation by Senate at end of term, with re-confirmation automatic unless 60% of Senators reject retention. In Senate Judiciary Committee.

Kansas HB 2019 Ends merit selection for court of appeals only. Provides governor may select nominees subject to senate confirmation. Provides failure by Senate to vote on candidate within certain time frame results in automatic confirmation. Approved by House Judiciary Committee 2/26/13.

Kansas HB 2020 Ends merit selection for court of appeals only. Provides for partisan elections. In House Judiciary Committee.

Kansas HCR 5002 (Constitutional Amendment) Ends merit selection for appellate courts. Provides governor may select nominees subject to senate confirmation. Provides failure by Senate to vote on candidate within certain time frame results in automatic confirmation. Provides for placement on November 2014 ballot. Approved by House Judiciary Committee 1/24/13.

Kansas HCR 5003 (Constitutional Amendment) Ends merit selection for court of appeals only. Provides for partisan elections. Provides for placement on August 2014 ballot.  In House Judiciary Committee.

Kansas HCR 5004 (Constitutional Amendment) Modifies state’s merit selection commission (although named “supreme court nominating commission”, covers court of appeals as well) to a 4-5-6 plan: 4 attorneys chosen by the state’s lawyers, 5 people chosen by the governor, and 6 by legislative leadership. Provides for placement on November 2014 ballot.  In House Judiciary Committee.

Kansas HCR 5005 (Constitutional Amendment) Modifies state’s merit selection commission for the supreme court only: 3 by governor, 3 by House Speaker, 3 by Senate President (one of each must be attorney). Provides nominee is subject to Senate confirmation. Provides failure by Senate to vote on candidate within certain time frame results in automatic confirmation. Provides justices terms are to be for “good behavior”. Provides for placement on August 2014 ballot.  In House Judiciary Committee.

Kansas SB 8 (Companion bill to SCR 1601, requires adoption of SCR 1601) AS APPROVED BY SENATE: Ends merit selection in state. Provides governor may select nominees subject to senate confirmation. Creates Kansas Commission on Judicial Nominations to review governor’s pick and make recommendations prior to Senate confirmation. Provides failure by Senate to vote on candidate within certain time frame results in automatic confirmation. AS APPROVED BY HOUSE COMMITTEE: Renames commission to Kansas Commission on Judicial Appointments. Gives Speaker of House power to name more members of Commission. Approved with amendment by House Judiciary Committee 2/26/13.

Kansas SCR 1601 (Constitutional Amendment) Ends merit selection in state. Provides governor may select nominees subject to senate confirmation. Creates Commission on Judicial Qualifications to review governor’s pick and make recommendations prior to Senate confirmation. Provides failure by Senate to vote on candidate within certain time frame results in automatic confirmation. Provides for placement on August 2014 ballot. Approved by full Senate 1/31/13.

Kansas SCR 1605 (Constitutional Amendment) Modifies state’s merit selection commission (although named “supreme court nominating commission”, covers court of appeals as well) to a 4-5-6 plan: 4 attorneys chosen by the state’s lawyers, 5 people chosen by the governor, and 6 by legislative leadership. In Senate Judiciary Committee.

Maryland SB 295 (Constitutional Amendment) Provides for merit selection with retention elections for Circuit Court judgeships. In Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

Oklahoma SJR 21 (Constitutional Amendment) Ends states merit selection system. Allows governor to appoint any qualified person. Provides prior to appointment, governor to submit names to judicial nominating commission for their advisory recommendation. Provides governor not obligated to adhere to recommendation and may then forward name to senate for confirmation.  Approved by Senate Rules Committee 2/20/13.

Oklahoma SJR 23 (Constitutional Amendment) Ends states merit selection system. Allows governor to appoint any qualified person with senate confirmation. In Senate Rules Committee.

Pennsylvania SB 298 (Constitutional Amendment) Creates merit selection system for appellate judges. In Senate Judiciary Committee.

Rhode Island HB 5022 Vests with the governor the sole authority to nominate, on the basis of merit, from a list submitted by the judicial nominating commission with the advice and consent of the senate, all judges and magistrates, to all courts. (Currently presiding judges & chief judges appoint certain magistrates). In House Judiciary Committee.

South Carolina HB 3056 Requires magistrate court judges be screened by merit selection commission before being appointed by governor with senate confirmation. In House Judiciary Committee.

South Carolina HB 3156 Requires magistrate court judges be screened by merit selection commission before being appointed by governor with senate confirmation. In House Judiciary Committee.

South Carolina HB 3187 Requires judicial merit selection commission release all qualified and fit candidates for consideration (currently limited to top 3). Removes requirements commission consider race, general, national origin, and other demographic factors. Defined “immediate family member” for purposes of recusal/prohibition on nomination by selection commission. In House Judiciary Committee.

South Carolina SB 171 Requires Judicial Merit Selection Commission submit the names of all qualified candidates to legislature. In Senate Judiciary Committee.

South Carolina SB 200 (Constitutional Amendment) Ends merit selection with legislative appointment of judges. Provides Governor to appoint judges with Senate confirmation. In Senate Judiciary Committee.

South Dakota SB 198 Adds two members to Judicial Qualifications Commission chosen by House and Senate leaders (JQC serves as merit selection commission for Supreme Court). Approved by full Senate 2/13/13.

Tennessee HB 280 Requires election of all judges, including appellate and supreme court judges. In House Civil Justice Committee.

Tennessee HB 364 Extends the judicial nominating commission until 2015. In House Government Operations Committee.

Tennessee HB 695 Extends the judicial nominating commission until 2015. In House Government Operations Committee.

Tennessee HB 796 ORIGINAL: Extends the judicial nominating commission until June 30, 2013. AMENDED: Extends the judicial nominating commission until June 30, 2014. Approved as amended by full House 2/21/13.

Tennessee HB 835 Extends the judicial performance evaluation commission until June 30, 2014. In House Government Operations Committee.

Tennessee HJR 8 (Constitutional Amendment) Provides governor may appoint anyone who meets age and residency requirements to appellate courts with legislative confirmation. Provides nominee is deemed confirmed if legislature fails to act on nomination within 60 calendar days of nomination or 60 days of start of legislative session (if nominated out of session). Provides for retention elections. Replaced by SJR 2 (see SJR 2 for additional details).

Tennessee SB 215 Extends the judicial nominating commission until 2015. In Senate Government Operations Committee.

Tennessee SB 216 Extends the judicial nominating commission until 2015. In Senate Government Operations Committee.

Tennessee SB 406 Requires election of all judges, including appellate and supreme court judges. In Senate Judiciary Committee.

Tennessee SB 566 Extends the judicial nominating commission until June 30, 2013. In Senate Government Operations Committee.

Tennessee SB 567 Extends the judicial performance evaluation commission until June 30, 2014. In Senate Government Operations Committee.

Tennessee SJR 2 (Constitutional Amendment) AS AMENDED: Provides governor may appoint anyone who meets age and residency requirements to appellate courts with legislative confirmation. Provides nominee is deemed confirmed if legislature fails to act on nomination within 60 calendar days of nomination or 60 days of start of legislative session (if nominated out of session). Provides for retention elections. Approved by full Senate 2/29/13. On House floor calendar for 2/28/13.

Utah HB 53 Modifies information regarding judges found in voter information pamphlets. Provides for a narrative concerning the judge’s performance to be included. Provides that number of votes for and against judge’s retention by Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission be included. Approved by full Senate 2/12/13. To Governor for approval.

Utah HB 309 Clarifies when a judge may appear before the Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission. Approved by full House 2/13/13.

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