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Archive for the 'Merit Selection' Category

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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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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Editorial: Avoid Ethics ‘Minefields’ By Switching to Merit Selection

justice-scalesLamenting massive individual donations to judicial campaigns, a Towanda (Pa.) Daily Review editorial says it’s time for the legislature to consider switching to merit selection for picking Pennsylvania appellate judges.

“No system is perfect and merit selection would not be immune from politics. It would, however, instantly eliminate the need to raise money while seeking an appellate court seat, thus precluding the potential ethical mine fields that campaign donations create for judges,” the editorial said.

The editorial mentioned that Judge Mike George of Adams County, one of 12 candidates running for three seats on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, received a $500,000 donation from one individual, who listed himself as a teacher in Maryland. Read more

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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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Nevada Merit Bill Would Eliminate Governor’s Role

Gavel to Gavel reports that Nevada is the third state this session to see a push towards eliminating certain judicial elections, after Oregon and Maryland.

Under current law, Nevada District (general jurisdiction) Court judges are elected to six-year terms in nonpartisan elections, and interim vacancies are filled by the governor from a list compiled by the Commission on Judicial Selection. The bill would replace this system with a version of merit selection, whereby the Commission would send the list directly to Nevada’s lower chamber to make a selection, eliminating the governor’s role entirely. If a judge wishes to remain on the bench as a term comes to an end, he or she would be required to resubmit his or her name to the Commission for consideration, without any guarantees.

As Nevada’s legislature only meets every other year, “the Assembly would have the power to convene itself out-of-session to handle the judicial appointments,” the article explains. The bill would also extend these judicial terms to 8 years. Gavel to Gavel is a publication of the National Center for State Courts, a Justice at Stake partner organization.

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AR Report: Constitutional Amendment for Merit Selection Falters

A proposed constitutional amendment to switch from nonpartisan election of Arkansas Supreme Court justices to a merit-based selection system appears to be going nowhere soon.

According to Arkansas Online, state representatives and senators couldn’t agree on any proposed constitutional amendments to refer to voters in 2016, and legislative leaders said no constitutional amendments will appear on the ballot then. A merit selection proposal (see Gavel Grab) was among those on which there was no concurrence.

It was the first time in decades that Arkansas legislators will not be referring any proposed constitutional amendments for voters to decide.

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Justice at Stake Urges End to Contested MD Trial Court Elections

Justice at Stake urged the Maryland legislature on Wednesday to advance measures that would end contested elections of Circuit Court judges, and to ultimately consider their merit-based selection.

JAS-Logo“Across the country, state judicial elections have been overrun by big money and by special interest groups that want to buy seats on courts,” JAS Deputy Executive Director Liz Seaton said in testimony prepared for delivery before a House panel.

“Campaign money should not be a factor in selecting judges, and merit selection systems reduce the influence of this money on the courts,” Seaton said. “Under the selection system proposed by these bills, potential judges would be selected by gubernatorial appointment and subject to confirmation by the Senate.” Read more

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Opinion: Kansans’ Views on Merit Reflected by JAS Poll

Kansas-Flag-2An opinion column in the Kansas City Star declares “Kansans are wisely opposed to abandoning merit selection,” and it cites a recent poll commissioned by Justice at Stake to make its case.

The column by Bob Sigman, a freelance writer who once served on the newspaper’s editorial board, says about proposals (see Gavel Grab) to dump a judicial nominating commission process for choosing state Supreme Court justices:

“A judicial change would run counter to the public sentiment of Kansans. Justice at Stake, an advocacy group for merit selection, found in a recent poll of likely voters that 55 percent oppose partisan judicial elections and 76 percent oppose the federal system.”

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