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

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Sunday, January 5, 2014

Bill to Change Vermont Judicial Selection

Vermont judges are selected in three steps:
1. A nominating commission (the Judicial Nominating Board) takes applicants and sends a list of finalists to the governor.
2. The governor picks one.
3. The state senate votes whether to confirm the nominee.

I call this senate confirmation system and like the fact that the judicial branch is selected by the other two. 

Fine to have a nominating commission (the Vermont Judicial Nominating Board) but the important question is who selects it, that is, who picks the pickers?  The Vermont Judicial Nominating Board has 11 members: 2 nonlawyers appointed by governor; house and senate each select 3 members, 2 nonlawyers and 1 lawyer; and 3 lawyers elected by members of bar. 

Overall, this is a democratically-legitimate system except for the 3 lawyers selected by the bar. 

The bill would add more names from which the governor may choose.  As Bill Raftery explains: "Under current law the Judicial Nominating Board can submit as few or as many names as it likes to the governor, but the governor must submit from that list alone. SB 305 would effectively allow the governor to force the Board to produce more names. If the Governor opted not to select a name from the first list created by the Board, a second list would be created from a list of people 'who did not previously apply for that particular vacancy.' The names from the second list plus the names from the first list would then be resubmitted to the governor."

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