Plans to drug test judges making a comeback; PA & MO bills would specify impeachment and/or bar judges from ballot for positive tests

Three years ago amid a huge national push to drug test welfare recipients I noted here, here and here that several states plus Puerto Rico had proposed drug testing judges in particular. I also noted that when a similar push was made in the 1990s that a Louisiana justice of the peace sued and won against that state’s law mandating drug testing for judges. Despite that suit, the effort to drug test judges has begun again, this time starting in Missouri and Pennsylvania.

Missouri HB 1648 is not judge specific; instead it covers all statewide elected officials plus members of the General Assembly. With respect to judges, there are two provisions.

  1. Judicial candidates would have to sign an agreement to be subject to random drug testing at the judge’s expense. Failure to agree would prohibit the judge or judicial candidate from running; it is unclear how this would impact the state’s merit selection system where judicial nominees are initially appointed and then run for retention election.
  2. A judge that tests positive for illegal drugs including specifically marijuana OR drugs that have not been lawfully prescribed “shall be subject to impeachment as provided in Article VII, Sections 1 and 2, of the Missouri Constitution.”

The Pennsylvania proposal (HB 1934) is more expansive than Missouri’s covering all state judges plus every state and local office, even┬áparty officers or party delegates, that appear on any ballot in the state. There is no penalty provision or threat of impeachment; a person would have to submit a “clean” drug test or not be allowed on the ballot.

The Missouri bill was filed yesterday (1/29) and has therefore not been assigned to a committee; the Pennsylvania bill is pending in the House State Government Committee.

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