Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Judicial Selection Reform' Category

Brownback Assails Courts, Urges Changes to Selecting Judges

Gov. Brownback

Gov. Brownback

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has criticized the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage ruling and two Kansas Supreme Court rulings, on abortion and school funding, as politically driven and has called for a “more democratic” selection process for judges.

Earlier this year Brownback proposed changes to the way Kansas justices are selected, by either shifting to their direct election or to a Washington-style system of appointment by the chief executive and confirmation by the state Senate. The justices currently are chosen through a merit selection process.

The Topeka Capital-Journal reported Brownback’s latest views by relying on an email sent from his office to  people who have signed up for such communications. The email branded the nation’s highest court a judiciary “unrestrained by the rule of law.” Read more

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N.C. Justice to Seek Reelection by Retention in 2016

Justice Bob Edmunds of the North Carolina Supreme Court will take advantage of a new law and run next year for a new term in a retention, as opposed to a contested, election, the Associated Press reported.

Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, recently signed into law the measure pushed by a Republican legislature. It has attracted media attention nationwide as an example of a transparently partisan measure to stack a court with sympathetic judges.

This month, a Mother Jones article portrayed the change to state judicial selection law as tantamount to canceling the 2016 election (see Gavel Grab). Said  Melissa Price Kromm of the North Carolina Voters for Clean Elections Coalition. “It is a partisan, political power grab.” Justice Edmunds is a Republican. Read more

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Editorial: PA Merit Plan Would Bring ‘A Vast Improvement’

Another Pennsylvania editorial board is endorsing the proposed merit selection of appellate judges, this time warning that big spending on existing judicial elections for the state Supreme Court can erode public confidence in its integrity.

“With $5 million in contributions made to candidates in Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court primary and some fearing far more, including out-of-state money, expected in the general election, the worry arises that special interests might have or at least appear to have undue influence over our highest court,” said the LancasterOnline editorial.  Read more

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After IA Court Ruling, Critic Would Revamp Judicial Screening Panel

iowaflagOn June 19, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that doctors can administer abortion-inducing pills through video conferencing with patients. A critic of the ruling quickly called for changes to the way Iowa Supreme Court justices are chosen.

Chuck Hurley, vice president and chief counsel of The Family Leader, zeroed in on the composition of the judicial nominating commission that recommends candidates to the governor for appointment. He called for having members of the commission be elected by state voters, according to The Iowa Republican.

Currently, there are 15 members of the vetting panel, and it is chaired by the senior associate justice of the Supreme Court. “The [seven] elected members are chosen by resident members of the bar in each congressional district, and the [seven] appointed members are chosen by the governor, subject to senate confirmation,” according to the Judicial Selection in the States website, operated by the National Center for State Courts. Read more

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Ex-Governors Push for Merit Selection Proposal in Pennsylvania

Former governors Ed Rendell, a Democrat, and Tom Ridge, a Republican, are advocating for Pennsylvania to adopt a merit selection system for choosing appellate judges. A new proposal for merit selection, to replace contested elections, was introduced in the legislature recently (see Gavel Grab).

“A merit selection system with citizen participation will elevate the justice system in Pennsylvania and take it out of the political and fundraising environment,” Rendell said, according to a Legal Intelligencer article that is available through searching by Google.

“State lawmakers must do what is right for our judicial system. We can’t allow time to continue to slip by with a system that needs to be fixed,” Ridge said. Read more

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Editorial on Merit Selection: Let’s Put ‘Independence … Above Politics’

Pennsylvania_quarter,_reverse_side,_1999A Scranton Times-Tribune editorial has joined a growing chorus of endorsements (see Gavel Grab) for a proposal that Pennsylvania adopt a merit-selection plan to replace contested elections for appellate judges.

The level of politics in judicial elections, the editorial said, is “particularly troubling at the appellate level this year.” It referred to the state political parties’ deep interest in winning three open seats on the state Supreme Court, which is likely to weigh new legislative redistricting maps in the future. The editorial concluded about the proposed constitutional amendment for merit selection:

“It’s too late for an amendment to be in place this year, in that an amendment requires approval in two consecutive legislative sessions and then by statewide referendum. But it’s never too late to start the process of creating a system for appellate judges that places independence and professionalism above politics.”

Read more

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Article: Effectively Canceling a Judicial Election in North Carolina

North_Carolina_Supreme_Court_sealPerhaps the most scorched-earth interpretation yet of a change to judicial selection law in North Carolina comes from a Mother Jones article portraying it as tantamount to canceling the 2016 election.

With legal challenges to their policy agenda heading to the state’s highest court, Republicans controlling the legislature hunkered down and approved a law making it likely that a Republican justice up for re-election next year will stay on the bench, averting the possibility of a shift from a 4-3 GOP majority to a Democratic one, the article said.

The new law, signed by Gov. Pat McCrory, gives elected state Supreme Court justices the option to stand for re-election to a new term in a retention (up-or-down) contest instead of a contested race. Read more

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Bill Would Switch to Merit Selection of PA Appellate Judges

Pennsylvania_quarter,_reverse_side,_1999A bill to replace contested elections of appellate judges in Pennsylvania with a merit-based appointment process was introduced in the state House by legislators from both parties. It was unveiled amid discussion of a need to reform Pennsylvania judicial selection.

A Philadelphia Inquirer article said supporters of the bill are concerned about an appearance that big spending on judicial elections delivers influence on court decisions, and it cited Justice at Stake in reporting that an appointive system using a commission to screen judicial applicants exists in 22 states.

“It’s getting more people to scratch their heads and say, there’s got to be a better way,” Lynn Marks of Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, a JAS partner organization, told the newspaper about judicial election spending. Details of the legislation are available from the PMC’s web page about judicial selection reform. Read more

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N.C. Governor Signs High Court Retention Election Bill

14556644-1431776449-640x360Gov. Pat McCrory of North Carolina has signed into law a bill that changes the way state Supreme Court justices are re-elected, according to the Associated Press.

Under the law, elected sitting justices who seek a new term would do so through a retention (up-or-down) election instead of a contested election (see Gavel Grab).

McCrory is a Republican, and the change was pushed by North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature. It has proven somewhat controversial. In a media opinion last week, Bob Geary said it amounted to a political “rigging” of the high court because it would virtually ensure re-election of a Republican justice next year. Read more

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N.C. Legislation a Means of ‘Rigging’ High Court?

A change pushed by North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature in the method of selecting state Supreme Court justices amounts to a political “rigging” of the high court, Bob Geary contends in an Indy Week opinion.

The legislation, if signed by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, would virtually ensure re-election of Republican Justice Bob Edmunds next year, according to Geary. Under the proposal, elected sitting justices who seek a new term would do so through a retention (up-or-down) election instead of a contested election (see Gavel Grab). Geary maintains that in a contested election, there would be a chance of Democrats gaining control of a court majority in the next election. He calls actions of the Republican Party in North Carolina totally “shameless.”

The bill was portrayed by sponsors as a means to rein in electoral politics and spending on judicial elections.

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