Judicial elections, democratic appointment (e.g., senate confirmation), and the Missouri Plan (a/k/a "merit selection")

Judicial selection and other videos

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Bills Advance to Reform Missouri Plan of Judicial Selection

A Missouri senate committee has advanced bills to reform the Missouri Plan of judicial selection.

If approved by voters, SJR 11 would allow the governor to appoint the new judge from a list of names of all qualified applicants, submitted by a nonpartisan judicial commission, rather than from a list of only three names. This would reduce the power of the commission. This would advance democratic legitimacy because the commission has some members selected by the bar.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Partisan Judicial Elections in North Carolina

North Carolina changed its trial judge elections from partisan to non-partisan in the 1990's. Now it is returning to partisan elections. Republican legislators supporting partisan elections overrode the veto of the Democratic governor.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Suit Challenges Delaware Court's Political Balance Requirement

Delaware's Constitution, Art. 4, sect. 3, says "three of the five Justices of the Supreme Court in office at the same time, shall be of one major political party, and two of said Justices shall be of the other major political party." This political balance requirement, a Delaware lawyer's suit argues, is unconstitutional under the freedom of political association guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Bills to Change Hawaii Judicial Retention by Replacing Commission with Senate

Hawaii's judges are appointed for an initial term by the Governor (or, for district judges, the Chief Justice) from a list prepared by the state’s Judicial Nominating Commission. The pick is then subject to Senate confirmation. However, for subsequent terms, the judge need only return to the Judicial Nominating Commission for reappointment; neither the Governor nor the Senate plays a role. (Hawaii Constitution Art. VI, Sec. 3).

The very first bill introduced in the Hawaii House this year calls for a constitutional amendment removing reappointment decisions from the commission and instead giving the Senate the final word in the reappointment of individual judges and justices, according to Ian Lind

The members of the Judicial Nominating Commission are listed here along with who appointed them.

Art. VI, Sect. 3 of the Hawaii Constitution reads:

The governor, with the consent of the senate, shall fill a vacancy in the office of the chief justice, supreme court, intermediate appellate court and circuit courts, by appointing a person from a list of not less than four, and not more than six, nominees for the vacancy, presented to the governor by the judicial selection commission.

If the governor fails to make any appointment within thirty days of presentation, or within ten days of the senate's rejection of any previous appointment, the appointment shall be made by the judicial selection commission from the list with the consent of the senate. If the senate fails to reject any appointment within thirty days thereof, it shall be deemed to have given its consent to such appointment. If the senate shall reject any appointment, the governor shall make another appointment from the list within ten days thereof. The same appointment and consent procedure shall be followed until a valid appointment has been made, or failing this, the commission shall make the appointment from the list, without senate consent.


The chief justice, with the consent of the senate, shall fill a vacancy in the district courts by appointing a person from a list of not less than six nominees for the vacancy presented by the judicial selection commission. If the chief justice fails to make the appointment within thirty days of presentation, or within ten days of the senate's rejection of any previous appointment, the appointment shall be made by the judicial selection commission from the list with the consent of the senate. The senate shall hold a public hearing and vote on each appointment within thirty days of any appointment. If the senate fails to do so, the nomination shall be returned to the commission and the commission shall make the appointment from the list without senate consent. The chief justice shall appoint per diem district court judges as provided by law.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Arkansas Bar Ass'n Proposes Big Change to Arkansas Supreme Court Selection

The Arkansas Supreme Court is currently selected in non-partisan elections. "The Arkansas Bar Association is holding a series of public forums across the state to discuss and
receive comments on a proposed Arkansas Constitutional Amendment on an appointment process
for selection of Supreme Court Justices," according to a press release by the Bar Association.

The proposal recommends “a nine-member judicial nominating commission...be formed to accept applications, interview candidates and nominate three for each vacancy on the Supreme Court.”, according to the Brennan Center, which goes on to say: the governor “would then appoint one of those candidates to the court” for a single, non-renewable, 14-year term.

FWIW, I like the single, non-renewable, 14-year term as that helps judicial independence without going to the extreme of allowing a justice to remain on the state's high court for 20 or 30 years.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Ohio Supreme Court Elections Leave Republicans in Control

Republicans won all three elections to the Ohio Supreme Court this year. "Republicans retain control of the state’s high court by a 6-1 margin", according to the Toledo Blade.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Montana Supreme Court Election

As is often true of contested judicial elections around the US, the Montana Supreme Court race between Dirk Sandefur and Kristen Juras involved a funding battle between businesses and the trial lawyers who sue them. According to the Montana Standard,

More than $1.1 million has been raised by Juras, Sandefur and organizations supporting their campaigns, according to state campaign finance records. The Republican State Leadership Committee’s Judicial Fairness Initiative, a DC-based political group funded primarily by large corporations, has bought ads to attack Sandefur, while various political action committees of the Montana Trial Lawyers Association have lined up to oppose Juras in what could be another record-setting fundraising year.

Sandefur won the election.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

2016 Montana Supreme Court Candidates Debate

Listen to the debate between Kristen Juras and Dirk Sandefur on Montana Public Radio. Whoever is elected will serve eight years as one of seven justices in Montana’s highest court.

Retired Montana Supreme Court Justice James Nelson explains that this is just one of three elections to the court this year, but in the other two Chief Justice Mike McGrath and Justice Jim Shay are running unopposed.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Judicial Retention in Hawaii

The progressive Brennan Center praises Hawaii's system of judicial retention, which uses a commission to determine whether sitting judges should be retained for additional terms. Of course, the important question is who appoints the commission. While the Brennan Center is not troubled that some members of the commission are appointed by the Hawaii State Bar Association, I think it undemocratic to weight the votes of some citizens (lawyers) more than the votes of other citizens in determining who holds powerful positions influencing the direction of the law.

Friday, September 9, 2016

NY Times Depicts Kansas Battle as Judicial Independence vs. Politicized Courts

Predictably-progressive oversimplifications by the Times include "In the Kansas system, judges are appointed by the governor," The Times fails to mention the bar's extraordinarily large role in selecting Kansas Supreme Court justices and the politicization that produces.