Rhode Island: House bills guarantee certain trial court judgeships to “persons of color”, require Judicial Nominating Commission actively recruit persons of color for judgeships

Over the last several years bills have been introduced in the Rhode Island House to mandate more diversity in the state’s courts (see here for the 2017 efforts and here and here for the 2016.)

Efforts to guarantee certain trial court judgeships in Rhode Island to “persons of color” have been re-introduced.

HB 7648 provides that when a person of color leaves a trial court bench (Superior, Family, District, Traffic Tribunal, Workers’ Compensation, or Municipal) “their replacement must be a person of color, so as not to diminish the number of judges of color in that court.”

HB 7649 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.

These bills are in addition to HB 7532 as filed last week that requires the 9-member Judicial Nominating Commission must have at least 3 persons of color. That bill was discussed here.

All three bills have been filed in the House Judiciary Committee.

Rhode Island: bill to mandate diversity in state courts re-introduced; requires at least 3 persons of color on Judicial Nominating Commission

Over the last several years bills have been introduced in the Rhode Island House to mandate more diversity in the state’s courts (see here for the 2017 efforts and here and here for the 2016.)  Prior proposals included guaranteeing certain trial court judgeships to “persons of color”. This year’s plan includes a return of a prior proposal: guaranteeing certain Judicial Nominating Commission seats to “persons of color.”

Under HB 7532 as filed the 9-member commission would, starting in 2019, must have at least 3 persons of color.

HB 7532 has been filed in the House Judiciary Committee.

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.

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

A series of bills filed late last session in the Rhode Island House to address diversity in that state’s judiciary have been refiled in 2017.

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.

All three bills have been filed in the House Judiciary Committee.

Rhode Island: House bill guarantees certain trial court judgeships to “persons of color”

I mentioned last month a plan in the Rhode Island House that would require the state’s Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) name at least one person of color for every judicial vacancy. While that bill stalled out in committee it appears a new set of bills have now been filed.

HB 8018 provides any judicial seat currently filled by a “person of color” can only be filled in the future by another “person of color.”

Notwithstanding any provisions of this chapter to the contrary, whenever a judge from the superior court, family court, district court, or workers’ compensation court who is a person of color leaves the bench, for whatever reason, their replacement must be a person of color, so as not to diminish the number of judges of color in that court.

In addition HB 8019 would guarantee at least one-third of the seats on the 9 member Judicial Nominating Commission go to persons of color. Moreover, the JNC would be required to “aggressively” seek out persons of color for judicial vacancies.

Effective January 1, 2017, the commission shall be composed of at least three (3) members who are persons of color . When the governor is making an appointment to the commission, that appointment shall adhere to the legislative mandate that the commission be composed of at least three (3) members who are persons of color…

The commission shall actively and aggressively solicit persons of color to apply for all judicial appointments. It shall keep records of all persons of color who apply for a judicial appointment, its success rate of having those names submitted to the governor for judicial appointment, and its recruiting methods.

Both bills have been filed in the House Judiciary Committee.

Rhode Island: bill requiring Judicial Nominating Commission name at least one person of color for every judicial vacancy stalls in committee

Legislation introduced last month in the Rhode Island House that would require the state’s Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) send at least one person of color for every judicial vacancy in the state has been held for further study possibly stalling out for the session.

HB 7455 amends the current law, which requires a list of 3-5 names, to add that the list “shall include a person of color.” The bill also requires that in making appointments to the JNC the governor and others “ensure that the membership of the commission reflects the racial, ethnic, and gender diversity of the state’s population.”

During debate (video here) two problems with the bill were discussed. First, the JNC’s voluntary forms that ask for applicants to identify their race and ethnicity are not always filled out by applicants, making it impossible to determine the race and ethnicity of applicants. Second, if no person of color applies for a vacancy, it would be impossible for the JNC to send a list. The author of the bill argued the bench should reflect the diversity of the state, reviewed the racial composition of the various courts in the state, and accused the JNC of using “bogus” reasons for rejecting the names of attorneys of color for vacancies.

Rhode Island: bill requires Judicial Nominating Commission name at least one person of color for every judicial vacancy

Legislation introduced last week in the Rhode Island House would require the state’s Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) send at least one person of color for every judicial vacancy in the state.

HB 7455 amends the current law, which requires a list of 3-5 names, to add that the list “shall include a person of color.” The bill also requires that in making appointments to the JNC the governor and others “ensure that the membership of the commission reflects the racial, ethnic, and gender diversity of the state’s population.”

HB 7455 has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee.