Louisiana House and Senate vote today on con amendments that would reshape state’s judiciary

Two bills currently set for votes before the Louisiana House (calendar) and Senate (calendar) today could reshape the way the state’s courts function.

The Louisiana House vote would be on HB 96, a constitutional amendment that would put on the November 2014 ballot a repeal of the state’s mandatory judicial retirement age. The bill is effectively identical to SB 11 which passed the Louisiana Senate unanimously on April 1.

The Louisiana Senate meanwhile is set to vote on both a constitutional amendment (SB 216) and implementing statute (SB 217) that would allow the state’s Supreme Court to reallocate a vacant judgeship or recommend its abolishment.

SB 216 would keep the legislature’s power but grant the Supreme Court its own authority in this area. Within 60 calendar days of the vacancy the Supreme Court would make one of three determinations

  1. the vacancy should be filled
  2. the vacancy should be reallocated “to another court of equivalent jurisdiction due to need”
  3. the vacancy should be abolished

The Supreme Court would then advise the governor and legislature of its determination.

  1. If filled in the normal fashion or reallocated, then a special election or regular election would occur (depending on how many months left in term). The Supreme Court could appoint someone to fill the office on an interim basis, but that person would be ineligible to run for the office.
  2. If the Supreme Court recommends the vacancy should be abolished, the court would decline to appoint someone and advise the governor and legislature. If the legislature in its next session opts not to take the Supreme Court’s recommendation and abolish the vacancy, it would be filled at the next regular congressional election.