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

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Friday, February 26, 2016

The Politics of US Senate Confirmation of Federal Judges

The New York Times writes:

Since Republicans took control of the Senate in January 2015, the process that would enable Mr. Obama to fill vacancies on the 12 regional federal courts of appeal has essentially been halted. Mr. Obama has managed only one appointment because Republican senators have refused to sign off ahead of time on nominees for judgeships in their statesa traditional step before a president makes a nomination.
Just as there is no precedent for leaving a Supreme Court seat open because it is an election year, as Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, vowed to do hours after Justice Scalia’s death was announced, there is also none for virtually shutting down the appointment of new appeals court judges so early. Each of Mr. Obama’s predecessors since Ronald Reagan also faced a Senate controlled by the opposing party, yet they appointed between 10 and 18 appellate judges in their last two years in office.
Republicans have framed their resistance as payback for the decision by Democrats in 2013 to change Senate rules and eliminate the ability of lawmakers in the minority to block confirmation votes with a filibuster. Republicans had used the tactic with unprecedented frequency while in the minority to slow or block Mr. Obama’s nominees as part of a tit-for-tat dating to 1987, when Senate Democrats rejected Reagan’s nomination of Robert H. Bork to the Supreme Court.

Retention Elections Unconstitutional in North Carolina

A 2015 North Carolina statute tried to change judicial retention from contestable elections (2 or more candidates) to retention elections (yes or no vote on retaining the incumbent). As the News & Observer puts it, the "law gives most sitting justices the option to be re-elected to additional eight-year terms without head-to-head matchups with challengers. Instead, the justice can choose to be elected in an up-or-down vote." The Superior Court held this unconstitutional.

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/state/north-carolina/article61153192.html#storylink=cpy