California: Assembly Judiciary Committee wants a working group to look at how to get more information out to voters about judicial elections, posting judicial decisions online

An effort to improve voter education when it comes to judicial elections in California has cleared the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

AB 1463 as amended creates a working group, chosen by the Judicial Council, to consider what information would be useful to voters in a judicial election and how to make this information accessible to voters. The working group may consider whether it is appropriate or feasible to post judicial decisions on an Internet Web site maintained by a government entity.

AB 1463 now goes to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

 

Delaware: final approval on constitutional amendment to give governor & senate more time to consider judicial nominees, allow for prospective appointment

A constitutional amendment discussed here and here to give Delaware’s governor and senate more time to consider judicial nominations cleared its final hurdle. With 39-0 House approval, the constitutional amendment will now go into effect (Delaware doesn’t require voter approval of constitutional amendments).

Currently, the constitution provides the governor makes nominations and the Senate confirms for the state’s top courts (all but Alderman’s). Since 1977 every governor has used an advisory Judicial Nominating Commission. The governor and senate, however, are on a timetable:

  • The governor must submit a name to the Senate within 60 days after the occurrence of a vacancy.
  • The Senate, if in session, takes up the name. If not in session, the Governor must within 60 days convene the Senate to take up the nomination.
  • If an incumbent judge remains in office, they can holdover up to 60 days after the expiration of their term.

SB 25 of 2017 would effectively extend these deadlines and allow for prospective appointments if a vacancy is set to occur; the current constitution is silent on the matter.

  • The governor could submit a name to the Senate “from 30 days before to 90 days after” the vacancy happens.
  • The Senate could also be called back into session “from 30 days before to 90 days after” the vacancy happens.
  • Incumbent judges could holdover in office up to 90 days.

The constitutional amendment (then called SB 275 of 2016) was approved unanimously by both chambers last year.

Montana: “Supreme Court Candidate Public Forum Program” killed; effort at public funding for court races but opponents worried about using court fees to pay for it

A plan discussed here to create publicly funded public forums to hear from candidates for Montana’s non-partisan Supreme Court races is dead for the session.

HB 636 would have directed the Secretary of State hold public forums throughout the state and invite all candidates for the high court participate. The funding from the program would have come, in part, from an increase in filing fees in appellate and civil cases. Opponents (audio here starting at 1:50) expressed concern that the increase in fees would be problematic from an access-to-justice perspective and that while the forums should be encouraged, community groups should be taking care of them. They also objected to candidates having their travel expenses to the forums being paid for via the forum.

The bill was heard in the House Judiciary Committee on March 28 and left in the committee. A motion to pull it out of committee and bring it to the floor was rejected by the full House on March 29 41-58.

Delaware: Senate approves 17-0 constitutional amendment to give governor & senate more time to consider judicial nominees, allow for prospective appointment

A constitutional amendment discussed here to give Delaware’s governor and senate more time to consider judicial nominations cleared the Senate last week. With House approval, the constitutional amendment would go into effect (Delaware doesn’t require voter approval of constitutional amendments).

Currently, the constitution provides the governor makes nominations and the Senate confirms for the state’s top courts (all but Alderman’s). Since 1977 every governor has used an advisory Judicial Nominating Commission. The governor and senate, however, are on a timetable:

  • The governor must submit a name to the Senate within 60 days after the occurrence of a vacancy.
  • The Senate, if in session, takes up the name. If not in session, the Governor must within 60 days convene the Senate to take up the nomination.
  • If an incumbent judge remains in office, they can holdover up to 60 days after the expiration of their term.

SB 25 of 2017 would effectively extend these deadlines and allow for prospective appointments if a vacancy is set to occur; the current constitution is silent on the matter.

  • The governor could submit a name to the Senate “from 30 days before to 90 days after” the vacancy happens.
  • The Senate could also be called back into session “from 30 days before to 90 days after” the vacancy happens.
  • Incumbent judges could holdover in office up to 90 days.

The constitutional amendment (then called SB 275 of 2016) was approved unanimously by both chambers last year.

Rhode Island: House committee holds hearing on bills that would guarantee certain trial court judgeships & 3 seats on Judicial Nominating Commission to “persons of color”

A hearing was held earlier this week on a series of bills filed to address diversity in the Rhode Island judiciary. Video of the hearing before the House Judiciary Committee is here, starts at around 38:15 and ends at around 44:00. During testimony the author of the bills asserted that of Rhode Island’s 85 judges, only 4 were “of color” and that the Judicial Nominating Commission had demonstrated bias in the past against persons of color.

The bills were

HB 5301 requires the judicial selection commission actively and aggressively solicit members of color to apply for judicial appointments, including practicing members of the Rhode Island Bar residing in border states.

HB 5302 provides any trial court seat currently filled by a “person of color” can only be filled in the future by another “person of color.”

HB 5303 would guarantee at least one-third of the seats on the 9-member Judicial Nominating Commission go to “persons of color” and require the governor to make the corresponding appointments.

The House Judiciary committee recommended the measures be held for further study.

Florida House votes tomorrow on term limits for appellate judges, over a dozen floor amendments filed by same representative who tried to create a “Scalia rule” in 2016

A plan to impose term limits on Florida’s appellate judges is set for a full House vote tomorrow and one House member has introduced over a dozen amendments to the bill.

HJR 1 as filed limits appellate judges (Supreme Court and District Courts of Appeal) to 12 consecutive years in office and prohibits them from being reappointed for 1 year after leaving office. It is specifically not retroactive and does not count any prior years of service on a court against a judge (“time served by the justice or district court judge in that office prior to January 9, 2019, shall not be included in the calculation of the total number of consecutive years served in that office.”)

A series of floor amendments, however, have been filed for consideration as part of the vote. All these amendments were offered up by the same Representative who tried to amend a “Scalia rule” into the 2016 version of appellate term limits. The “Scalia rule” would have prohibited Florida governors from appointing members of the Florida Supreme Court in their last year in office.

  1. Amendment 769097 puts a 12-consecutive-years limit on appellate judges and ends the state’s merit/commission system of selection, replacing it with governor-appointment with the judge requiring a 2/3rds majority of the House and Senate to be confirmed.
  2. Amendment 240027 puts a 28-consecutive-years limit for both appellate courts (supreme and district court of appeal).
  3. Amendment 115709 puts a 24-consecutive-years limit for both appellate courts.
  4. Amendment 203245 puts a 20-consecutive-years limit for both appellate courts.
  5. Amendment 368361 puts a 16-consecutive-years limit for both appellate courts.
  6. Amendment 924205 puts a 12-consecutive-years limit for both appellate courts.
  7. Amendment 439969 puts a 24-consecutive-years limit for district court of appeal judges only.
  8. Amendment 221391 puts a 20-consecutive-years limit for district court of appeal judges only.
  9. Amendment 961487 puts a 16-consecutive-years limit for district court of appeal judges only.
  10. Amendment 221391 puts an 8-consecutive-years limit for district court of appeal judges only.
  11. Amendment 501941 puts a 12-consecutive-years limit for both appellate courts and provides that judges of the court(s) may not represent a client before the court on which they served for 6 years after leaving the court.
  12. Amendment 728183 puts a 12-consecutive-years limit for both appellate courts and provides that judges of the court(s) must disclose how much they were paid by clients to appear before the courts on which they served.
  13. Amendment 760147 puts a 12-consecutive-years limit for both appellate courts and provides that judges of the court(s) may not represent a client before any Florida state court for 2 years after leaving the court.

 

North Carolina: Senate overrides governor, state’s trial courts will go back to partisan elections; appellate races returned to partisan in December 2016

The North Carolina Senate has voted to override the governor’s veto of HB 100, a bill to take return the state’s trial court races back to partisan contests. The House had voted to override earlier this week (discussed here).

The legislature had already in a December 2016 special session moved to take appellate races in the state back to partisan.