Yesterday I looked at efforts to get rid of or modify existing merit selection systems in the 30 states that have them for initial and/or interim judicial vacancies. Today, I’ll be looking at the efforts to get them into places/states that do not already have them created by constitutional provision or statute. Several states use “merit selection” entirely as the result of governors’ creating nomination panels; because these don’t involve the legislature I will not focus on them. All information as to which states have what is from the American Judicature Society’s 2011 report “Judicial Merit Selection: Current Status” located here.
Minnesota HB 1666 / SB 1465 – These constitutional amendments would establish a merit selection system with retention elections for judges. Terms of office would be extended from six to eight years. Additionally, a judicial performance commission would be formed, which must issue in the judge’s retention election year a retention evaluation of “well-qualified,” “qualified,” or “unqualified”. There was a hearing on the House bill in May 2011 and they were carried over into the 2012 session.
This is the 5th year in a row such a bill has been considered: prior iterations made it out of committee but never advanced beyond their chambers of origin. The closet was SF 3129 of 2008 which would have taken the existing merit selection system in place to temporarily fill interim vacancies in District Court and applied it to the appellate courts. It passed 55-12 in the Senate but failed to move in the House.
North Carolina HB 325 and SB 458 – There were several hearings in 2011 on the prospect of creating some sort of merit selection system in North Carolina, but instead of using retention elections providing that the person chosen and the person not selected by the governor would face off in an election after. For a review of the hearings, check out the coverage from Gavel Grab. In terms of actual legislation the two bills were introduced in 2011 and carried over into 2012.
Pennsylvania HB 1815 / SB 843 – These constitutional amendments and their corresponding statutory changes (HB 1816 / SB 842) would create a merit selection system with Senate confirmation for the state’s 3 appellate courts. The constitutional amendments also broadly describe the composition of the merit selection commission. A hearing was conducted in November 2011 and other in March 2012.
Wisconsin SJR 42 – Submitted in September 2011 for the 2012 session, the constitutional amendment, like the Minnesota example, gave no specificity as to membership of the commission that would submit names to fill appellate court vacancies to the governor. There were no hearings on the bill and it died when the legislature adjourned.