Gavel Grab

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Free-Market Group Leader Backs Change in TN Judicial Selection

A constitutional amendment to change the way Tennessee selects its appellate judges gets a vote of support in a Tennessean op-ed from Justin Owen, president and CEO of the Beacon Center of Tennessee, a free-market think tank.

M7izZDFI_400x400“I’ll be voting ‘Yes on 2′ in November because it is the best approach to choosing competent, fair and impartial judges, while holding them accountable to the people of our state,” Owen writes.

The revised system for choosing appellate judges would include gubernatorial appointment subject to legislative confirmation. It provides for retention (up-or-down) elections when judges seek a new term. Read more

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Did Legislator’s Email for Judicial Fundraiser Cross the Line?

In the politically charged North Carolina Supreme Court election, The News & Observer reports that a Republican legislator sent emails from his legislative account touting a fundraiser for the campaign of Justice Mark Martin, who is seeking to become Chief Justice.

Under ethics guidelines governing state legislators, what state Rep. Bert Jones did in sending the emails is not allowed, the newspaper says. It cites a subscription-only publication called N.C. Insider as its source for the story. Read more

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Different Routes to Judicial Recall in Arkansas Explained

With discussion in the Arkansas legislature of a possible effort to provide for recall of judges, there is new information available from Gavel to Gavel about the options that legislators or advocates might pursue.

A way to recall judges has been discussed in the wake of some leaders’ criticism of state Judge Chris Piazza over his recent ruling that struck down a state ban on marriage for same-sex couples (see Gavel Grab).

Gavel to Gavel is a publication of the National Center for State Courts, a Justice at Stake partner organization. Bill Raftery, who tracks legislation affecting state courts around the country, writes that if a legal “initiative” is pursued, it would require 62,507 signatures by July 7. If proponents of judicial recall seek a constitutional amendment, it would require 78,133 signatures. Read more

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N.C. Bar Has ‘Serious Concerns’ Over Senate-Passed Measure

vfiles6311North Carolina’s Senate again has approved legislation to change the way state courts weigh challenges to the constitutionality of laws passed by the General Assembly, despite “serious concerns” raised by the N.C. State Bar Association.

Legislation supported by the Senate would require three-judge panels to decide the merits of lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of laws passed by the legislature. The Senate delivered a favorable vote on Thursday after a series of actions that included the House removing the provision from its version of a Senate-passed budget, and the Senate Judiciary Committee then adding the provision to another bill, according to Gavel to Gavel, the blog of the National Center for State Courts. Read more

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Merit Selection Set Back, PMC Looks to Next Session

justice-scalesA key Pennsylvania House committee scuttled plans to vote on Tuesday on a proposal for the merit selection of statewide judges. A group advocating for the plan said the panel will not consider it “this session,” and the group will continue to seek common ground for reform.

“Although we’re disappointed that the House Judiciary Committee will not consider commonsense solutions, this session, to getting the most qualified judges on the bench and removing money from the process, we are committed to continuing this important public conversation,” Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts said in a statement. The group is a Justice at Stake partner organization.

“While we weren’t successful this session, it’s important to keep fighting for change because Pennsylvanians deserve to have confidence that when they go to court, they will be heard by the most qualified, fair and impartial judges. We look forward to sitting down with those who oppose the bill to see if we can’t find some common ground to getting judges out of the fundraising business and off the campaign trail.” Read more

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State House Panel to Consider Merit Selection in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania_quarter,_reverse_side,_1999Pennsylvania’s House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to consider early next week a bill for the merit selection of statewide judges. The bill preserves the role of a judge as an objective decision-maker and should be advanced by the committee, urges the Judges On Merit blog.

The blog is sponsored by Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, a Justice at Stake partner organization, and PMCAction.

“When the public sees judges campaigning and fundraising to win a seat on the bench, it takes away from their view of the judge as an objective decision-maker, and instead gives the impression that judges are the same as other politicians,” the blog says. Read more

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Proposal to Reduce Size of Pennsylvania High Court Advances

supreme_seal_colorThe Pennsylvania Supreme Court would be reduced from seven to five justices under a resolution that won approval by the Senate State Government Committee this week.

The committee also voted to shrink the size of the state House and the state Senate, according to a Philadelphia Inquirer article. Senate President Joe Scarnati offered the amendment approved by the committee that would reduce the judiciary and also the office of the lieutenant governor, for cost-saving purposes.

Gavel to Gavel, a publication of the National Center for State Courts, said the state Superior Court would be reduced from 15 to 11 judges. The National Center is a JAS partner organization.

According to Legal Intelligencer, a publication excerpted by Gavel to Gavel, “Pennsylvania attorneys and political watchers expressed shock and disapproval over a state Senate committee’s recent passage of an amended resolution seeking to reduce the number of state Supreme Court justices and Superior Court judges.”


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Bill Would Change Way Challenges to NC Laws Are Decided

NORTH-CAROLINA-FLAG-300x224Now that Republican legislators control power in the North Carolina legislature, they’re working to change the process for state courts to decide challenges to the constitutionality of laws passed by the General Assembly.

A provision in a Senate-passed budget was drafted after a Superior Court judge, acting under the process set by current law, invalidated or blocked public education laws passed in 2013 by the legislature, according to the Associated Press. The AP noted, “It’s a repeat of arguments from a decade ago when Democrats held most of the political power in Raleigh that may end with the same result.” Read more

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Louisiana Voters Will Weigh Ending Judicial Retirement Rule

Louisiana flagAs a result of action by the Louisiana legislature, state voters will weigh in November whether to lift a restriction that judges may not run for the bench after they reach the age of 70.

According to the Times-Picayune, supporters of the proposal to change the state’s constitution contend that judges should not be treated differently than other elected officials.

The ballot question, according to Gavel to Gavel, will ask the following:

“Do you support an amendment to remove the constitutional requirement that a judge retire upon attaining the age of seventy or, if his seventieth birthday occurs during his term, that he retire upon completion of that term? (Amends Article V, Section 23)” Read more

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All-or-Nothing Approach in New Kansas Court Funding Bill

In Kansas, where tensions between state legislators and the state Supreme Court have been noted (see Gavel Grab), the state Senate was to consider on Thursday a bill to increase funding for Kansas courts, as long as the state Supreme Court doesn’t strike down any portion of the bill if it became law.

Parts of the legislation would allow local courts to opt out of state Supreme Court control over budget preparation and submission; and take away the Supreme Court’s authority to pick chief district court and Court of Appeals judges.

The legislation was reported by Gavel to Gavel, a publication of the National Center for State Courts. The National Center is a Justice at Stake partner organization.

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