Hearings in Maryland and Missouri tomorrow to change way states pick judges

Plans to change the way judges are picked in Maryland and Missouri are set for committee hearings tomorrow.

In Maryland, two bills previously debated over the last several sessions are returning to the House Judiciary Committee (2017 coverage here).

HB 513 of 2018

Former HB 579 of 2017, HB 388 of 2016, HB 1071 of 2015SB 295 of 2013, HB 1385 of 2010

Ends elections for Circuit Court judges. Provides judges to be appointed by governor, confirmed by senate, and subject to yes/no retention elections. Reduces term in office from 15 years down to 10 years.

HB 607 of 2018

Former HB 826 of 2017, HB 223 of 2016

Ends elections for Circuit Court judges. Provides Circuit Court judges to be appointed by governor and confirmed by senate. Provides if confirmation vote is less than 80% of senate, judge is subject to contested election. Provides judges who are 80% confirmed or who win contested elect are to be reappointed by governor at end of a 15 year term and need not be reconfirmed or face another retention election.

In Missouri the Senate Government Reform Committee will consider SJR 28. Currently the nominating commissions for the state’s appellate courts and select Circuit Courts must send “three persons” to the governor. SJR 8 eliminates the “three persons” language and replaces with “all qualified nominees and shall not be limited in number, but shall contain at least three nominees.” A version of the plan (SJR 11 of 2017) cleared the Senate General Laws Committee last year after the Senate leader indicated he may move to simply eliminate the merit/commission system entirely accusing the state’s supreme court of “going rogue” and his desire to see more conservatives on the bench.

 

Missouri: efforts to amend or end merit/commission system of judicial selection introduced in legislature + initiative filed with Sec of State (needs 160,199 signatures)

Efforts to amend or end Missouri’s merit/commission system of judicial selection appear to be ramping up in 2018.

On the legislative side:

  • HJR 47 would end the commission system and allow a governor to fill appellate and select trial court vacancies subject to 2/3rds Senate confirmation. Judges would be subject to yes/no retention elections.
  • SJR 28 would provide that a nominating commission send all qualified names to the governor to fill a vacancy. Currently the constitution provides the commission is to send three names. A similar plan, SJR 11 of 2017, cleared the Senate General Laws Committee last year.

On the initiative side:

Petition 2018-318 The “Missouri Plan for Judicial Fairness and Accountability” needs 160,199 signatures to appear on the 2018 ballot.

  1. End the commission system for appellate courts and replace with partisan elections.
  2. Reduce the terms in office for appellate judges from 12 years down to 6
  3. Require the election of the chief justice by the state at large (currently chosen by the court)
  4. Term-limit appellate judges to two consecutive terms
  5. Allow judicial candidates to announce views on disputed legal and political issues
  6. Void any rule of court that would require recusal/disqualification for any such announcements
  7. Personally solicit funds for their campaigns

Bans on court use of sharia/international law: 19 bills in 14 states; Arkansas enacts, North Dakota rejects as an “insult to our judges”

Efforts to ban state courts from using or referencing foreign/international law in general, and sharia law in particular, continue apace with two legislatures approving versions while a bill in North Dakota was rejected.

Arkansas enacted a ban (HB 1041). An earlier version noted here would have re-declared that marriage in Arkansas was limited to a man and a woman, despite a U.S. Supreme Court decision saying the opposite. The amended/enacted HB 1041 provides

A court ruling or decision violates the public policy of this state and is void and unenforceable if the court bases its ruling or decision in the matter at issue in whole or in part on any foreign law, legal code, or system that does not grant the parties affected by the ruling or decision one (1) or more of the following fundamental rights, liberties, and privileges granted under the Arkansas Constitution or the United States Constitution:
(1) The right to due process;
(2) The right to equal protection;
(3) Freedom of religion;
(4) Freedom of speech;
(5) Freedom of the press;
(6) The right to keep and bear arms;
(7) The right to privacy; or
(8) The right to marry, as “marriage” is defined by the Arkansas Constitution, to the extent that the definition of marriage does not conflict with federal law or a holding by the United States Supreme Court.

Meanwhile the Montana legislature approved a version (SB 97) that is currently pending on the governor’s desk that reads in operative part

A court, arbitration, tribunal, or administrative agency ruling or decision violates the public policy of Montana and is void and unenforceable if the court, arbitration, tribunal, or administrative agency bases its ruling or decision on a law, legal code, or system that would not grant the parties affected by the ruling or decision the fundamental liberties, rights, and privileges granted under the Montana constitution or the United States constitution, including but not limited to due process, equal protection, freedom of religion, speech, or press, the right to keep and bear arms, and any right of privacy or marriage.

Finally, North Dakota’s House approved HB 1425 in February, but in late March the Senate rejected the proposal. At issue was the situation similar to Arkansas, namely, that the bill would have attempted to re-establish a ban on same-sex marriage. Senators objected to the marriage provision and amended it out, but also worried this was an “insult to our judges” and assumes North Dakota judges would violate the U.S. and North Dakota Constitutions without this bill.

Full list of bills below the fold.

Continue reading Bans on court use of sharia/international law: 19 bills in 14 states; Arkansas enacts, North Dakota rejects as an “insult to our judges”

Special Edition: Missouri fee/fine/cost legislation in the 2017 session

HB 1209 Requires all moneys, except administrative costs, from minor traffic violations on state-maintained roads or highways to be sent to the Director of the Department of Revenue. In House (no committee).

HB 380 Allows court to order credit for time served when an individual has been held in custody for a show cause order pertaining to any matter related to a minor traffic violation. Requires any summons for a minor traffic violation to include the date and time a defendant is to appear in court when the defendant is first provided the summons. Provides if the summons does not include such information when first given to the defendant, the summons will be void. Approved by House General Laws Committee 2/21/17. In House Rules Committee.

HB 623 Prohibits the fine collection center from taking an individual’s drivers’ license for failure to appear for a traffic violation. Action postponed in House Judiciary Committee 3/7/17.

Missouri: Changes to state’s merit/commission selection system for judges clear Senate committee; Senate leader decries courts that have “gone rogue”

A plan to change the way Missouri’s merit/commission system of judicial selection has cleared the Senate General Laws Committee. At the same time, the leader of the state’s senate has indicated he may move to simply eliminate the merit/commission system entirely accusing the state’s supreme court of “going rogue” and his desire to see more conservatives on the bench.

Currently the nominating commissions for the state’s appellate courts and select Circuit Courts must send “three persons” to the governor.

the governor shall fill such vacancy by appointing one of three persons possessing the qualifications for such office, who shall be nominated and whose names shall be submitted to the governor by a nonpartisan judicial commission

An introduced, SJR 11 eliminated the “three persons” language.

As approved by the committee, however, the language now requires the commissions send “all qualified nominees”.

Such list of names shall include all qualified nominees and shall not be limited in number, but shall contain at least three nominees.

SJR 11 now goes to full Senate.

Missouri becomes 3rd state this year to consider bills to prohibit state courts from enforcing/recognizing federal laws or court decisions

I mentioned the proposals in Arizona and Idaho that would prohibit state court judges from enforcing federal laws or federal court decisions. The latest such effort has now been filed in Missouri.

HJR 41 of 2017 appears to be identical to HJR 62 of 2016 originally discussed here.

The constitutional amendment is directed broadly to any “federal law.” The state legislature could send to the ballot, or the general public could via referendum, any “federal law” for a vote as to its constitutionality. If approved by voters, the “federal law” would be valid. If not, “the courts of this state shall be stripped of jurisdiction to enforce such a particular federal law…”

HJR 41 has been filed but not yet assigned to a committee.

Bans on court use of sharia/international law: 16 bills in 12 states to start 2017; Arkansas House and Montana Senate versions differ on constitutionality of same sex marriage.

The 2017 legislative session appears poised to pick up where the 2015/2016 sessions left off with respects to attempts to ban state courts from using or making reference to foreign/international law in general and sharia law in particular. Among the legislation:

Oregon SB 479 specifically targets sharia by name. As I mentioned when this came up in 2015, the Oregon bill’s specific naming and targeting sharia is similar to an Oklahoma effort that was struck down by federal courts as a violation of the First Amendment.

Arkansas HB 1041 approved by the House last week 63-24 provides

A court ruling or decision violates the public policy of this state and is void and unenforceable if the court bases its ruling or decision in the matter at issue in whole or in part on any foreign law, legal code, or system that does not grant the parties affected by the ruling or decision one (1) or more of the following fundamental rights, liberties, and privileges granted under the Arkansas Constitution or the United States Constitution

Among those rights listed is the “right to marry, as “marriage” is defined by Arkansas Constitution, Amendment 83.” Amendment 83 provides “Marriage consists only of the union of one man and one woman.” The lead sponsor of the bill indicated he believed “that marriage is between a man and a woman, not between the same sexes.

The other bill to advance so far was Montana’s SB 97 which cleared the Senate 27-21 on February 3. It too mentions marriage, but does not explicitly limit it to one man and one woman.

A court, arbitration, tribunal, or administrative agency ruling or decision violates the public policy of Montana and is void and unenforceable if the court, arbitration, tribunal, or administrative agency bases its ruling or decision on a law, legal code, or system that would not grant the parties affected by the ruling or decision the fundamental liberties, rights, and privileges granted under the Montana constitution or the United States constitution, including but not limited to due process, equal protection, freedom of religion, speech, or press, the right to keep and bear arms, and any right of privacy or marriage.

Full list of bills below the fold.

  1. Continue reading Bans on court use of sharia/international law: 16 bills in 12 states to start 2017; Arkansas House and Montana Senate versions differ on constitutionality of same sex marriage.