Citing the recent end of the filibuster in the U.S. Senate, a New Jersey Senate Republican introduced a resolution in that chamber to end the practice of delay or as he put it “filibuster” of judicial nominees in that state; see this Newark Star-Ledger article for details and this press release from the author of the resolution.
New Jersey is one of only a few states that give the legislature any role in judicial selection, specifically providing the Senate is to confirm the picks of the Governor all judges except those in some municipal courts. Recently the confirmation process has effectively come to a standstill with supreme court nominees of Republican Governor Chris Christie finding it hard to get through the Democratically controlled Senate.
The NJ Senate doesn’t have a U.S. Senate-style filibuster in place; the Democratic leadership of the Senate has simply declined to schedule hearings or votes for nominees. The resolution would counteract that, providing “a 90-day time limit on hearing nominations to the Supreme Court. If the Senate refuses to vote within 90 days, the nominee would win confirmation automatically.” The text of the resolution is not yet online but will be posted here when it is.
I noted when this subject came up in Florida that, in states where there is some sort of legislative confirmation (House, Senate, or both) there were already examples of a variety of scenarios:
- Automatic confirmation: Hawaii (Art. 6, Sec. 3; 30 days)
- Automatic rejection: Rhode Island (§ 8-16.1-5(c) and § 8-16.1-6(c); 60 days for Supreme Court & 90 days for trial courts) and Utah (Art. VIII, Sec. 8(3), 60 days)
- Nothing/deadline is advisory: New York (Judiciary Law § 68 (3) & (4); 30 days)
Similar automatic confirmation provisions have been suggested or enacted in other states in recent years, all citing the problems of delay in confirmations in the U.S. Senate.
- Kansas in 2013 provided for automatic confirmation when it ended merit selection for the state’s Court of Appeals and enacted a quasi-federal system (governor appoints, senate confirms, retention elections for additional terms). There, a nominee of the governor is automatically confirmed if he or she does not receive a vote within 60 days or 20 days if the Senate is not in session and will not be in session within the 60-day time limit.
- Tennessee’s proposed quasi-federal system which is on the 2014 ballot requires House and Senate confirmation but provides a nominee is deemed confirmed if the legislature fails to act on nomination within 60 calendar days of nomination or 60 days of the start of the legislative session (if nominated out of session).
- Florida in 2011 debated ending its merit selection system and moving towards a quasi-federal system (governor appoints, senate confirms, retention elections for additional terms). That proposal included a provision requiring a confirmation vote within 90 days of appointment or else the nominee was deemed confirmed.