Election 2015: Mississippi initiative would grant, not strip, courts of power to enforce K-12 funding

With so much focus in Kansas (various) and Texas (SJR 53) to strip courts of the power to order K-12 funding, Mississippi voters will in November 2015 decide on whether to explicitly grant that power to the courts.

Initiative 42, set to appear on the November 2015 ballot thanks to signatures gathered and a court ruling last week, would amend Section 201 of the state’s constitution to read

To protect each child’s fundamental right to educational opportunity, The Legislature the State shall, by general law, provide for the establishment, maintenance and support of an adequate and efficient system of free public schools upon such conditions and limitations as the Legislature may provide. The chancery courts of this State shall have the power to enforce this section with appropriate injunctive relief.

An alternative (42-A) submitted by the legislature would simply add “effective” to the existing provision.

The Legislature shall, by general law, provide for the establishment, maintenance and support of an effective system of free public schools upon such conditions and limitations as the Legislature may prescribe.

Thus in November under Mississippi’s unique voting system on initiatives, voters will cast two votes:

  1. Supporting either or neither measure and then
  2. Voting for a preferred choice: Initiative 42 or Initiative 42-A

 

Wisconsin Question 1: How are chief justices picked in other states?

One of the questions that has come up within the context of Wisconsin Question 1 is what do other states do? Since the Revolution (or admission as states) there have been five main methods of selection, of which four remain plus Indiana:

  1. Court Selection: presently in place in 22 states covering 23 courts if last resort (Oklahoma Supreme Court + Court of Criminal Appeals).
  2. Gubernatorial Appointment: 12 states/12 courts. Seen most often in New England states, this typically includes Senate or House and Senate confirmation.
  3. Partisan or Non-partisan election: 7 states covering 8 courts (Texas Supreme Court + Court of Criminal Appeals). In these cases the person is running for the specific office of Chief Justice and not simply to be a member of the court. For example in 2014 when Texas Chief Justice Nathan Hecht ran for re-election, it was to the office of Chief Justice as seen on this sample ballot.
  4. Seniority: 7 states/7 courts. “Strict” seniority such as in Wisconsin provides that the person longest serving on the court is chief justice. “Rotational” seniority such as in Nevada functions in a similar fashion, but requires the next-most-senior justice take over after 1 or 2 years.
  5. Legislative appointment: 1 state/1 court. More common in the earliest part of U.S. history, the only state that retains this practice is South Carolina.
  6. Other: 1 state/1 court. In Indiana, it is the Judicial Nominating Commission, without input from the governor, who selects the Chief Justice from among the already serving justices. This occurred most recently in 2014 when then-Chief Justice Brent Dickson went back to being Associate Justice Dickson and Loretta Rush was elevated to be chief justice.

State by state details below the fold.

Continue reading Wisconsin Question 1: How are chief justices picked in other states?

Election 2015: Coverage of Wisconsin Question 1 starts today

There may be other items in the fall of 2015, but for certain there will be one ballot item that will affect state courts this spring. Wisconsin Question 1, adopted by the state’s legislature twice (2013/2014 session and then again just a few weeks ago) would end the practice where the longest continuously serving member of the Wisconsin Supreme Court is chief justice and replace with a court-selects process.

Current

The justice having been longest a continuous member of said court, or in case 2 or more such justices shall have served for the same length of time, the justice whose term first expires, shall be the chief justice.

If Question 1 adopted

The chief justice of the supreme court shall be elected for a term of 2 years by a majority of the justices then serving on the court.

This week I’ll be looking at the subject of Question 1 in particular and the general question of what other states do, and have done, to pick chief justices.