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

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Minnesota Bill to Change from Elected Judges to Nominating Commission

Minnesota Judicial Selection

Law and Culture

The Star Tribune explains that "Currently, most judges do come into office by gubernatorial appointment, but there are rare elections for open seats without an appointee. Once in office, judges stand for re-election and can be challenged by opponents. Most run unopposed."  This has always struck me as part of the "Minnesota nice" culture.  Although officially Minnesota's high court has elections, it seems common for judges to retire mid-term which gives the governor an opportunity to appoint a judge to fill the unexpired term.  Then that incumbent runs un-opposed in the next election.  Contested elections seem to be more common at the supreme court level but the the incumbent usually wins handily and the closest in 2012 was a 12 point victory for incumbent Justice David Stras.  

Mandatory Retirement

Some mid-term judicial retirements seem due to the mandatory retirement age statute, which requires judges to leave the bench at the end of the month they turn 70, as opposed to at the end of the term. See Minnesota Code sections 490.125 and 490.121(21)(d)

A bill to move from this system to a Missouri Plan, nominating commission system advanced out of a senate subcommittee. 

For more on Minnesota judicial selection, see here

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