Rhode Island: House bill guarantees certain trial court judgeships to “persons of color”

I mentioned last month a plan in the Rhode Island House that would require the state’s Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) name at least one person of color for every judicial vacancy. While that bill stalled out in committee it appears a new set of bills have now been filed.

HB 8018 provides any judicial seat currently filled by a “person of color” can only be filled in the future by another “person of color.”

Notwithstanding any provisions of this chapter to the contrary, whenever a judge from the superior court, family court, district court, or workers’ compensation court who is a person of color leaves the bench, for whatever reason, their replacement must be a person of color, so as not to diminish the number of judges of color in that court.

In addition HB 8019 would guarantee at least one-third of the seats on the 9 member Judicial Nominating Commission go to persons of color. Moreover, the JNC would be required to “aggressively” seek out persons of color for judicial vacancies.

Effective January 1, 2017, the commission shall be composed of at least three (3) members who are persons of color . When the governor is making an appointment to the commission, that appointment shall adhere to the legislative mandate that the commission be composed of at least three (3) members who are persons of color…

The commission shall actively and aggressively solicit persons of color to apply for all judicial appointments. It shall keep records of all persons of color who apply for a judicial appointment, its success rate of having those names submitted to the governor for judicial appointment, and its recruiting methods.

Both bills have been filed in the House Judiciary Committee.