Kansas, Mississippi, and Montana may allow or make it easier to have recall elections for judges

Three states this week have introduced bills to allow or make it easier for voters to recall judges.

Kansas: as I noted last year, the Kansas constitution from 1914 to 1974 did allow for the recall of judges. That provision was amended out, but anger at the state’s supreme court caused a member of the House to introduce a bill (HB 2492) to reimpose recall for judges.

Since the 2014 bill would have violated the state constitution (“All elected public officials in the state, except judicial officers, shall be subject to recall…“), the bill died. The plan has now been reintroduced as a constitutional amendment (HCR 5003) to put recall of judges back into play by striking the word “except judicial officers” and replacing with “including“. What is interesting is that a specific member of the House is not identified in the bill, instead the official sponsor is the Committee on Federal and State Affairs.

Mississippi: the state does not presently have a system of recall elections at either the state or local level. There was a flurry of efforts in the mid-1990s to allow for the recall of elected officials in general or judges in particular. None of the bills progressed out of committee and one in particular targeting judges (SB 2792 of 1996) was specifically voted down in committee. The second wave of such bills started to be introduced in 2012 and have been reintroduced every session since but is not clear any have had so much as a committee hearing (details below the fold). This year’s iteration is HB 105 of 2015, which has been sent to the House Apportionment and Elections committee.

Montana: the state of Montana does have recall statute that allows for judges to be recalled from office, but limits it certain circumstances. Specifically, Section 2-16-603, MCA, limits the basis for a recall of a judge or other official to “physical or mental lack of fitness, incompetence, violation of the oath of office, official misconduct, or conviction of a felony offense.”

HB 220 of 2015 would maintain those limits for local/county/municipal officials, but allow for the recall of judges of the Supreme Court and District Courts plus other state elected officials for any reason. This marks the first attempt to expand the use of recall against state judges in decades. HB 220 has been filed in the House but not yet assigned to a committee.

Mississippi bills to allow for recall of judges in last 20 years

HB 195 of 1996, judges only, judges only, died in committee
HB 264 of 1996, all elected officials, died in committee
HB 379 of 1996, municipal elected officials, died in committee
SB 2792 of 1996, judges only, rejected by Senate Judiciary Committee 2/9/96
HB 758 of 1997, judges only, died in committee
SCR 535 of 1999 (Constitutional Amendment), judges only, died in committee
SB 2708 of 2002, judges only, died in committee
SB 2579 of 2006, all elected officials, died in committee
HB 950 of 2012, all elected officials, died in committee
HB 455 of 2013, all elected officials, died in committee
HB 245 of 2014, all elected officials, died in committee
SB 2439 of 2014, all elected officials, died in committee
HB 105 of 2015, all elected officials, pending in committee