Florida and Mississippi may join Indiana in putting state judges in middle of U.S. constitutional convention fights

Recently there has been a series of pushes to amend the U.S. constitution via a constitutional convention as a way to work around Congress. Part of this has included a bill enacted in Indiana last year and promoted by its sponsor to other states to be able to punish delegates criminally who fail to vote the way their state legislature wished. The enforcement would or could come from an advisory group, with investigative powers, made up of Indiana’s top three appellate judges: the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals, and the Chief Judge of the Tax Court (in Indiana, the Tax Court is not an agency, but an intermediate appellate court within the judicial branch). The “advisory” part is that these judges would have to give their opinion if a delegate’s vote violated the legislature’s will; a delegate would also be allowed prior to a vote to get the group’s advice ahead of time.

2014 has seen at least three bills introduced that parallel the Indiana law closely and in the case of Mississippi SB 2788 so closely it cites to Indiana Code sections (e.g. “IC 2-8-3-1”) rather than Mississippi law.

  • Florida HB 609: chief Justice, attorney for the President of the Senate (not the Lt. Gov.) and attorney for the Speaker of the House.
  • Mississippi HB 536: chief justice + associate justice (chosen by chief justice), chef judge of court of appeals + one other court of appeals judge picked by chief judge, circuit judge and chancery judge both chosen by governor, and attorney appointed by governor.
  • Mississippi SB 2788: chief justice, chief judge of court of appeals, licensed attorney chosen by state bar association

The Indiana law and the new bills include a provision for the advisory bodies to investigate the Article V convention delegates for prosecution for failure to adhere to the state legislature’s will, making them not just an advisory body but also a quasi-grand jury.

All 3 Florida and Mississippi bills are pending before their respective committees.