More and more murky as to whether or not North Carolina judicial elections will return to partisan elections

I mentioned two weeks ago the efforts to a) end the state’s public financing of judicial elections and b) a parallel effort to revert the state’s judicial elections from nonpartisan back to partisan ones. While it looked likely partisan elections were on the way back, the situation is now much less clear.

HB 452, originally written to end public financing, was committee-amended into a return of partisan elections, similar to HB 64. HB 452 was approved by the full House on June 7.

Meanwhile, the Senate version of HB 64 (SB 67) advanced through the Senate on June 8. However, the House Committee on Elections took SB 67 and added on the “Faithful Presidential Electors Act”, requiring those who are sent to the Electoral College to vote only for the President/Vice-Presidential candidate chosen by the state. It also added on contribution limitations on contributions from State vendors and a whole host of other items related to elections, including (according to the Fayetteville Observer)

  • Ends public financing for Council of State elections
  • Cuts a week out of the early voting calendar, ends Sunday voting and repeals same-day voter registration
  • Ends straight-ticket voting
  • Lets corporations make donations directly to party “headquarters funds,” which can be used for a variety of purposes

Damon Circosta, executive director of the N.C. Center for Voter Education, told the Raleigh News & Observer the amendments “[S]howed up with no notice…The first time that anybody outside of a small group of Republican legislators saw it was in a committee meeting.”

SB 67, with the litany of amendments, initially failed in the House Elections Committee because the committee chair miscounted the number of Republicans in the room when he called the vote. The error was fixed yesterday when the committee voted to approve the bill and it has been placed on the calendar for today (June 16).

North Carolina public financing of judicial campaigns survives committee vote, but nonpartisan judicial elections may be repealed

I mentioned in early May a late night, last minute floor amendment to the North Carolina budget that would have killed public financing for judicial elections. That effort was ultimately withdrawn in favor of a preexisting stand alone bill on the subject (HB 452).

HB 452 got its committee hearing on Friday, June 3 and in another surprise, saw its public financing provisions removed. Instead, the version of HB 452 that came out of the House Elections Committee now focuses on ending the state’s nonpartisan elections and returning them to partisan ones.

The committee-approved HB 452 reads very similar to HB 64, which was authored or co-sponsored by 35 of the 67 Republican House members, including the chair of the Elections Committee to which both bills had been referred. Unlike HB 64, HB 452 as amended would NOT allow for straight-ticket voting to affect judicial races. Currently law provides that a straight-party vote does not apply to Presidential races and HB 452 now expands that to include judicial races.

Meanwhile, the Senate has taken testimony on switching from the existing nonpartisan elections to a unique merit selection system. SB 458 contains many of basic provisions associated with a merit selection system: a Judicial Nominating Commission would put forth two names to the Governor to fill a judicial vacancy. The Governor would have to pick from the two. However, unlike most if not all other merit systems which follow with a yes/no retention election, the newly appointed judge would face off against the person NOT chosen by the Governor; the winner would get a regular, full term. Yes/no retention elections would only kick in a) if the person not appointed chose not to run or b) the winner of that initial race was up for re-election thereafter. Check out the coverage of the Senate proposal from our Gavel Grab friends here and here.

It is not clear how far any of these bills will get this year. The House GOP leadership has indicated it wants to adjourn by June 17 but come back for two special sessions over the summer; one on redistricting and one on constitutional amendments. Those special sessions could be key. While the shift from partisan to nonpartisan elections in 2001 for District Court (SB 119) and 2002 for Supreme Court and Court of Appeals (SB 1054) took place in regular sessions, the very first change took place in 1996 for Superior Courts in a special session (SB 41, 1996 Second Special Session) after having been hashed out in the regular session (SB 961 & SB 971 of the 1995 regular session).

Bans on court use of sharia/international law: 38 of 47 bills died or rejected this session; only 1 enacted into law

This post has been updated. Click here.

With most state legislatures going out of session, May proved to relatively inactive for bills seeking to ban court use of sharia/international law. In the May update (located here) there were 44 bills in 21 states. In June, the number of bills climbed to 47 in 21 states. As of today, the status of the 47 breaks down as follows:

38 died due to adjournment or had been rejected by their respective legislatures.

1 was signed into law (Arizona’s HB 2064 on April 12).

8 remain at least theoretically active: 4 in Alabama; 3 in Iowa; 1 in North Carolina.

Texas was the focus of much of the May activity. On May 9, the text of the House Committee on Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence ban (HB 911) approved in April was floor-amended (Amendment #6) into the so-called “loser pays” tort reform bill (HB 274). This version, as amended in committee, was much more limited than others and specified it applied in matters “arising under the Family Code” only and then only if “the application of that [foreign] law would violate a right guaranteed by the United States Constitution or the constitution or a statute of this state.” Amendment 6 was approved by a 112-31 vote in the House, but was removed by the Senate State Affairs committee and failed to be enacted when the final version of HB 274 was signed into law May 30.

Meanwhile, on (May 10) the House Select Committee on State Sovereignty advanced a broader version (HB 1240) of a sharia/international law ban

“foreign or international law or doctrine” means a law, rule, legal code, or principle of a jurisdiction outside the legal traditions of the states and territories of the United States, including international laws, that do not have a binding effect on this state or the United States…A court, arbitrator, or administrative adjudicator may not base a ruling or decision on: (1) a foreign or international law or doctrine; or (2) a prior ruling or decision that was based on a foreign or international law or doctrine.

HB 1240 proceeded to the House Calendars committee, where it died when the legislature adjourned.

Full roster of bills introduced in 2011 and their status after the jump.

Continue reading Bans on court use of sharia/international law: 38 of 47 bills died or rejected this session; only 1 enacted into law

In surprise move, North Carolina House floor amendment to budget tries to kill public financing for judicial campaigns

Since its creation, Gavel to Gavel has deliberately avoided reference to general appropriations/budget bills. They are so complex and ever changing that an entire blog and publication could be dedicate to those bills alone. That said, every so often something catches my eye, and last night’s budget floor fight in the North Carolina House was the latest.

Readers may recall there are several efforts to end North Carolina’s public financing system for judicial races (SB 419 & HB 452).

Rep. Edgar Starnes, primary sponsor of the House measure, has so far failed to get his bill a committee hearing. In a surprising move, he instead introduced last night Amendment 45 to HB 200 (the state’s appropriations bill) which produced exactly the sections of HB 452 specifically repealing the public financing system.

Nothing less than bedlam erupted on the floor (audio available here, h/t North Carolina Center for Voter Education). The chair ruled the amendment was germane to the budget. Democratic Minority Whip Rep. Rick Glazier berated Republicans for bringing such an amendment up, bypassing the subject matter committee. Republicans countered that such amendments were commonplace when Democrats held control of the chamber. Moreover, they opposed public financing on the merits, claiming that it was a First Amendment violation and “tyranny”.

The Republican chair of the House Elections Committee David Lewis effectively agreed that the Starnes amendment was bypassing proper committee debate and hearing on the issue. Rep. Lewis then took to his Facebook page to object while the debate was going on

Uh-oh. Wheels just ran off. Rep. Starnes introduced an amendment to do away with public financing of campaigns-Diverting $6 million to the General Fund. Rep. Glazier has pointed out that this is a pretty serious policy change without a committee hearing. While I think this discussion is needed and question the constitutional basis of using tax money to support candidates, Rep. Glazier was right about the process.

Starnes eventually withdrew the amendment. Additional coverage and details available here and here.

Bans on court use of sharia/international law: Law in Arizona, bills advance in Missouri and Texas, failing in most states

This post has been updated. Click here.

In the April update (located here) there were 44 bills in 21 states seek to ban court use of sharia/international law. There have been no new bills, but almost all existing ones have either died or failed to advance in the last several weeks. As of today, the status of the 44 break down as follows:

20 died due to adjournment or had been rejected by their respective legislatures.

11  failed to make it out of committee in their originating house before the legislature’s internal deadline.

1 failed to make it out of committee in the second house before the legislature’s internal deadline (Oklahoma HB 1552).

1 was signed into law (Arizona’s HB 2064 on April 12).

11 remain at least theoretically active.

Of the active, only three moved in the last month.

  • Texas: One of the House bills was approved in committee, but with a massive shift in wording. HB 911 was originally a broad-based ban on the use of foreign law “if the application of that law would violate a right guaranteed by the United States Constitution or the constitution of this state.” As amended, however, the ban applies only “on a matter arising under the Family Code.” As amended, the bill passed the House Committee on Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence on April 18.
  • Missouri: The House approved one of its versions (HB 708). The Senate committee scrapped the House bill in favor of its own (SB 308).

Both use the same definition of “foreign law”

As used in this section, “foreign law, legal code, or system” means any law, legal code, or system of a jurisdiction outside of any state or territory of the United States, including but not limited to international organizations and tribunals, and applied by that jurisdiction’s courts, administrative bodies, or other formal or informal tribunals.

Both use nearly identical wording for what is banned (differences in bold).

House: Any court, arbitration, tribunal, or administrative agency ruling or decision violates the public policy of this state and shall be void and unenforceable if such court, arbitration, tribunal, or administrative agency bases its rulings or decisions in the matter at issue in whole or in part on any law, legal code, or system that would not grant the parties affected by the ruling or decision the same fundamental liberties, rights, and privileges granted under the constitutions of this state and the United States.

Senate: Any court, arbitration, tribunal, or administrative agency ruling or decision shall violate the public policy of this state and be void and unenforceable if the court, arbitration, tribunal, or administrative agency bases its rulings or decisions in the matter at issue in whole or in part on any foreign law, legal code, or system that would not grant the parties affected by the ruling or decision the same fundamental liberties, rights, and privileges granted under the United States and Missouri constitutions.

The big difference appears to be in the provisions related to contracts. The Senate version waives the ban on the use of “foreign law” where the clause is “capable of segregation” from the rest of the contract.

Minor differences include a provision in the House version that declares “The general assembly fully recognizes the right to contract freely under the laws of this state, and also recognizes that this right may be reasonably and rationally circumscribed in accordance with the state’s interest to protect and promote rights and privileges granted under the constitutions of this state and the United States.” Moreover, the House version would amend Missouri Revised Statutes Chapter 1 (Laws in Force and Construction of Statutes) while the Senate version adds to Chapter 506 (Commencement of Actions and General Provisions).

Full roster of bills introduced in 2011 and their status after the jump.

Continue reading Bans on court use of sharia/international law: Law in Arizona, bills advance in Missouri and Texas, failing in most states

Bans on court use of sharia/international law advance in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma

Welcome New York Times readers!

This post has been updated. Click here.

In the March update (located here) there were 42 bills introduced in 2011 in 20 states seeking to ban court use of sharia/international law. That number is now up to 44 bills in 21 states.

  • Arizona’s “new” bill was really a strike-all amendment to a completely unrelated bill HB 2064. The resulting bill was approved April 7 and is currently sitting on Governor Jan Brewer’s desk.
  • North Carolina HB 640 was introduced April 5 and is currently pending in the House Committee on Judiciary, Subcommittee C.

In addition to Arizona, bills in 6 other states advanced out of their committees or chambers, including Alabama SB 61 and SB 62, Alaska HB 88,  Florida SB 1294, Kansas HB 2087, Missouri HB 708, and Oklahoma HB 1552. Additionally, hearings were conducted in Texas and Missouri. All 2011 activity is in bold below the fold.

Continue reading Bans on court use of sharia/international law advance in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma

KY: Public financing for judicial elections?

Perhaps in anticipation of an expected 2012 Supreme Court election in the state, or as a reaction to judicial elections in other states, the Kentucky legislature will be considering a bill (HB 21) this year to create a public financing system for all judges in the state, paid for in part by a $25 annual assessment on all members of the Kentucky Bar Association. If adopted, Kentucky’s public financing system for judicial races might be the most expansive in the nation. Similar programs in Wisconsin, North Carolina, and New Mexico are limited to appellate courts only. A fourth program (West Virginia) adopted in 2010 is limited to only the state’s 2012 Supreme Court race.