Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Judicial Selection Reform' Category

NC Considers Step Away from Contested Judicial Elections

NORTH-CAROLINA-FLAG-300x224In a move that could help keep money out of North Carolina judicial elections, a House judiciary committee recommended legislation that would allow Supreme Court justices or Court of Appeals judges to face a retention (up-or-down) election after they initially win a contested election.

WBTV.com reports that sponsor Rep. Leo Daughtry of Smithfield says the bill in part responds to the large amount of money infiltrating North Carolina judicial elections.

The bill now moves to the house floor.

This comes as other legislation to change to partisan judicial elections is being debated (see Gavel Grab.)

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Partisan Judicial Elections — or Merit — Debated in North Carolina

justice-scalesA proposal in the North Carolina legislature to make judicial elections partisan moves in the wrong direction because steps should be taken to remove politics from the courtroom, Tom Campbell writes in a Greenville Daily Reflector op-ed.

Campbell is a former assistant state treasurer. He concludes, “The verdict is in. The current system isn’t serving us well and we are increasingly convinced that electing appellate judges isn’t the best way to get the best judges. Partisan judicial elections only make them more political. We should take politics out of the courtroom as much as possible in order to assure better jurisprudence.” Read more

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Debate Renewed Over Judicial Selection in Arkansas

justice-scalesA debate over the best way to select state Supreme Court justices in Arkansas is being renewed, following remarks by Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, that it’s time to rethink the current method of popular election (see Gavel Grab).

The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette editorialized this week about a possible switch to an appointive system, “Appointments increase the likelihood that the law, not political concerns, will be the dominant influence on rulings, and we like that. But they are not a cure-all for the court’s challenges. In-depth study is the right path before this state up-ends its justice system. Let’s make sure we know what we’re getting before we say ‘yes’ to reducing the electorate’s voice.”

A different view came from an editorial at Arkansas Online, saying, “The regularly (and wisely) rejected idea of appointing the members of this state’s highest courts–instead of electing them–has shown up again.”

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Ohio Chief Justice Stumps for Judicial Selection Reforms

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor of the Ohio Supreme Court plugged some of her ideas for judicial selection reform at a gathering of the League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland.

She would like to see judicial elections moved to odd-numbered years in hopes that voters would get more information about judicial candidates and vote smarter, according to a Cleveland.com article. And she said that by November, a new website featuring information about every judicial candidate will be operating.

“The League supports the independence of judges with preference for merit selection,” Cleveland.com noted. Read more

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Panel Votes to Make N.C. Appellate Court Elections Partisan

ncstateAfter the bill sponsor said voters in judicial elections need more information, a North Carolina House panel voted to make the elections of state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals judges a partisan matter.

Candidates for those courts would have their party affiliation listed on the ballot under the measure approved by the House Elections Committee, according to the News & Observer.

“As somebody that has been involved in politics for a long time, the main question I hear from citizens is ‘tell me something about the judges,’” said bill sponsor Rep. Reid Jones, a Republican. Read more

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Opinion: Reforming Arkansas Judicial Selection is Ripe for Study

stock-footage-arkansas-flag-loopAfter Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson recently said it is time to rethink the popular election of state appellate judges (see Gavel Grab), a Russellville Courier op-ed agreed, saying this would make the appropriate topic of study for a blue-ribbon panel.

Roy Ockert, emeritus editor of The Jonesboro Sun, wrote in the op-ed that the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling has changed the way political pressure and money can influence elected courts.

“In previous years [Arkansas] Supreme Court justices were fairly insulated from such political pressure. After all, they face election only once every eight years and, once elected, seldom face another opponent,” Ockert wrote. Read more

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Legislators Seeking Support for New PA Merit Selection Measure

Pennsylvania_quarter,_reverse_side,_1999With a Pennsylvania Supreme Court election spending free-for-all in sight this year, a bipartisan legislative duo is seeking backers for legislation to switch to merit-based selection of appellate judges.

“Appellate court judges would no longer be chosen based on their ballot position, campaign fundraising abilities, or where they live,” Republican Rep. Bryan Cutler and Democratic Rep. Madeline Dean said in a joint memo, according to the Allentown Morning Call. “Judicial candidates would no longer be required to engage in a process that leaves them seemingly beholden to wealthy lawyers and special interest groups who might appear before them in court.” Read more

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AR Gov. Hutchinson: Rethink Popular Election of Appellate Judges

hutchinson-3d970fec82f0994d0ae77e0c05cb180b33b29ff0-s800-c15Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas told a local Bar group that he believes it is time to rethink the popular election of appellate judges, adding, “I am willing to give that some gubernatorial support.”

“I’m committed to developing a different system of selection of our appellate judges and working with the Legislature as to the best way to address that challenge,” he said, according to Arkansas News Bureau and nwaonline.com accounts.

While he did not endorse a proposed constitutional amendment for merit selection of Arkansas Supreme Court justices (see Gavel Grab), which failed to advance in the legislature this year, Hutchinson said the proposal would be a starting point.

The Associated Press reported, “Hutchinson interested in merit selection for judges.” It quoted Hutchinson as saying his interest in potential judicial selection reform did not have anything to do with the current state Supreme Court.

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Illinois Editorial: Keep the Checkbook out of the Courtroom

Darvocet-Stack-of-Cash-GavelIllinois Gov. Bruce Rauner probably couldn’t prove his remark this week that the state Supreme Court is part of a “corrupt” system (see Gavel Grab), a Chicago Sun-Times editorial says, but cynicism is bred by the millions of dollars flowing into judicial elections and reform ought to be considered.

“Merit selection of judges, the favored alternative of reformers, eliminates the need to raise campaign funds,” the editorial points out. “Judges are beholden to nobody’s wallet. Merit systems usually involve a commission that produces a list of qualified names from which political leaders or voters select new judges.”

The editorial slams sums poured into recent judicial races that “would embarrass a bagman from the 1980s Operation Greylord court scandal,” and it concludes, “From cases of petty crime to big constitutional questions, judicial decisions go down better with the public when there is no checkbook in the courtroom.” Read more

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Three PA Court Candidates Report Raising More than $500,000 Each

gavel_cash-300x202With three seats on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court up for election this year, a multi-million dollar contest apparently is in the offing. Of 12 candidates running in the primary, three have each reported raising more than half a million dollars so far.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review said, based on financial statements submitted by candidates, that Democratic Philadelphia Judge Kevin Dougherty reported raising $585,000, Democratic Superior Court Judge David Wecht of Indiana Township reported raising $546,000, and Republican Adams County Court Judge Michael George reported about $508,000 on hand.

At PoliticsPA, meanwhile,  political analysts G. Terry Madonna  & Michael L. Young advocated consideration of merit-based selection of appellate judges as “a rational alternative to the electoral roulette we now use.” Read more

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