West Virginia: Governor vetoes for typographical errors move to nonpartisan judicial elections; legislature swiftly sends amended version back

Citing technical errors in the bill, West Virginia’s Governor has vetoed the state’s move to nonpartisan judicial elections, but within hours the legislature moved to fix the problems.

HB 2010 which passed overwhelmingly in both the House and Senate but the Governor vetoed it citing typographical problems or errors in referencing other statutes. Moreover the veto message notes that the bill’s title doesn’t include a listing of all the changes the law makes and repeats the same phrasing at least twice.

The House on Monday and the Senate Tuesday approved an amended version of the bill that addresses the governor’s concerns and will now be sent back to his desk for approval.

 

West Virginia becomes 4th state in last 2 decades to end most or all partisan judicial races; state could get first of its kind public financing of trial court races too

Yesterday West Virginia’s House gave its final approval to HB 2010 as amended by the Senate to move the state to nonpartisan judicial elections at all levels. Under the new system judges would also run from divisions; under the current practice judges run in a “cattle call” thus if there are two vacancies on the Supreme Court it is the top 2 vote getters who win. Future elections would be for specifically designated seats (e.g. Circuit Court, Seat B).

West Virginia is the fourth state to move from partisan to nonpartisan elections in the last twenty or so years:

  • Arkansas: In 2000 voters approved Amendment 80, a rewrite of the state’s Judiciary Article, which included nonpartisan elections for judges.
  • Mississippi: Most state courts were moved to nonpartisan elections under the 1994 Nonpartisan Judicial Elections Act; Justice of the Peace Court races remain partisan.
  • North Carolina: The state’s courts were moved to nonpartisan ballots in a piecemeal fashion: Superior (1996), District (2001), and finally the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court (2002).

Also coming up for debate is expansion of the state’s public financing system for judicial races. The state had a pilot program for public financing of Supreme Court races which it made permanent in 2013. HB 2858 as filed in the House at the end of last week would create a new program for races in the state’s main trial court (Circuit). If adopted this could be a first; current and former public financing plans in New Mexico, North Carolina (repealed), and Wisconsin (repealed) all focused on appellate races only.

West Virginia: Senate approves with amendments House bill to move to nonpartisan judicial elections; judges would run for individual seats

Earlier today the West Virginia Senate approved HB 2010, a plan to end the state’s practice of electing judges on partisan ballots. Under the new system judges would also run from divisions; under the current practice judges run in a “cattle call” thus if there are two vacancies on the Supreme Court it is the top 2 vote getters who win. Future elections would be for specifically designated seats (e.g. Circuit Court, Seat B).

The House approved HB 2010 on February 4 on a 90-9 vote. The Senate Judiciary committee made several amendments to the bill and that Senate-amended version was approved earlier today. The bill now goes back to the House to accept the Senate amendments.

A tale of two states: WV has public financing of judicial races + move to nonpartisan races; NC ends public financing + wants return to partisan races

The last two years have thrown the states of West Virginia and North Carolina into sharp contrast against one another.

In 2010 North Carolina had a public financing system for the state’s appellate court races and nonpartisan judicial races. West Virginia had no public financing system and partisan races.

By 2014 the situation was reversed. West Virginia had not only tested a pilot public financing system for appellate races (HB 4130 of 2010) but made it permanent (HB 2805 of 2013). Now last week, the West Virginia House Judiciary Committee advanced a bill (HB 2010 of 2015) to simply end partisan elections at all levels (and require election by districts/divisions).

Meanwhile, North Carolina eliminated its public financing system in 2013 and efforts first seen in 2013 to return the state’s judicial races to partisan elections are apparently set to be reintroduced in the 2015 session. (h/t Gavel Grab)

West Virginia: two bills try two different ways to create an Intermediate Appellate Court

For two decades, West Virginia legislators have debated the creation of an Intermediate Appellate Court, and 2015 is proving to be no different. This year’s proposals appear to be effect repeats of those submitted in prior years and detailed in this post from 2013.

SB 129 would use a practice, common in the 1700s and 1800s but abandoned in all other states, of assigning no permanent judges to the court (“No judge may be permanently assigned to this court, but a judge shall be assigned to a panel to hear cases before that panel of the court by designation.”) Instead, the three-judge panels of the Intermediate Court of Appeals would be made up of two sitting or retired Circuit Court judges sitting with a member of the state’s Supreme Court.

SB 134 is a “Civil Justice Reform Act” that includes a multitude of provisions, including creation of a 9 judge Intermediate Court of Appeals (3 judges per district). The judges would be permanently assigned to that court, although Circuit Court judges could be temporarily assigned in cases such as disqualification.

Both bills have been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Changing civil jurisdiction thresholds – Part 5

This fifth and final item in a series of posts looks at legislative efforts to change the civil jurisdiction thresholds in state limited and general jurisdiction courts in the last decade. For a listing of all current civil jurisdiction thresholds, click here.

South Dakota to Wyoming below the fold.

Continue reading Changing civil jurisdiction thresholds – Part 5

Efforts to change state constitutions to remove/alter Judicial Council or Supreme Court rulemaking authority – Part 7

This seventh and final installment looks at efforts to change state constitutional grants of rulemaking authority to courts of last resort, typically called the “supreme court”, or judicial councils.

My colleagues here at the National Center have a listing of all such provisions here.

South Dakota to Wyoming below the fold.

Continue reading Efforts to change state constitutions to remove/alter Judicial Council or Supreme Court rulemaking authority – Part 7

Bans on court use of sharia/international law: are there the votes in the FL Senate this year? And what about a MO veto?

The 2014 efforts to ban state court use of international or foreign laws in general, and sharia law in particular, are effectively over save for two states. Since I last updated this in early March the only movement has been in Florida and Missouri, setting the stage for a possible repeat of 2013.

Florida: The Florida House and Senate bills are presently on the floors of their respective chambers and could be voted on any day. However, when this occurred last year the House was able to pass its version on April 18, 2013. The Senate on the other hand did not have the votes to pass either its version or the House bill and wound up tabling (i.e. killing) a combined House/Senate bill in May 2013.

Missouri: Just like in 2013, the 2014 effort came out of the Senate General Laws committee. However, last year’s version was vetoed by the state’s governor citing among other things the possibility that the language was so broad it would void or at least jeopardize foreign adoptions. The 2013 veto was overridden by the Senate but failed to be overridden by the House by a single vote (108 out of 109 needed).

List of bills below the fold
Continue reading Bans on court use of sharia/international law: are there the votes in the FL Senate this year? And what about a MO veto?

Bans on court use of sharia/international law: active in GA, FL, MO only; dead in MS

The latest efforts to ban state court use of international or foreign law, often cited in the context of banning the use of sharia law by state courts, appear to be failing. The vast majority of such bills are not even getting committee hearings. A case in point is Mississippi’s HB 44: the bill had been approved by the full House 116-2 in February, but failed to get out of the Senate Judiciary A committee before the March 4 legislative deadline for committee passage.

Effectively only 3 states have active efforts to enact such bans

List of bills below the fold

Continue reading Bans on court use of sharia/international law: active in GA, FL, MO only; dead in MS

Bans on court use of sharia/international law: introduced in Georgia UPDATED

2014 appears to be the year when bills to ban court use of international/foreign law, or specifically sharia law, start to wane. I mentioned two weeks ago that at least three states that saw such bills introduced in the past did not see them reintroduced in 2014. Moreover, Mississippi failed to take up any of their bills before the legislative deadline for committee action. Of all the bills introduced in that state since 2011, not a single one has advanced out of committee (HB 301 of 2011, HB 525 of 2011, HB 2 of 2012, HB 698 of 2012, HB 711 of 2013, HB 1127 of 2013, HB 1333 of 2013, SB 2729 of 2013, HB 44 of 2014, HB 557 of 2014, HB 622 of 2014, and SB 2660 of 2014.)

Update 2/6/14: The Mississippi legislature’s bill tracking system now indicates that HB 44 of 2014 has in fact  made it out of committee.

Meanwhile Georgia has seen one bill and one constitutional amendment introduced in their legislature to ban courts from using international/foreign law.

List of bills below the fold

Continue reading Bans on court use of sharia/international law: introduced in Georgia UPDATED