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Archive for the 'Judicial Selection Reform' Category

Editorial: Time to Weigh Reform of Judicial Elections in Florida

Florida_quarter,_reverse_side,_2004“Filling the bench” is becoming a campaign issue in Florida, says a Miami Herald editorial that urges consideration of major reform.

The editorial touches on questions raised about the records of both gubernatorial candidates, Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democrat Charlie Crist, before favoring an appointive system for choosing lower-court judges:

“The current system means anyone can challenge a sitting county or circuit judge — even if they’ve only practiced law for a handful of years. Running for the bench is the same as running for dog catcher.

“It’s time to consider making judicial candidates stop saying ‘Vote for me!’ and let governors make the appointments. Removing the politics first, however, will be the hard part of any overhaul.” Read more

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More Debate Over Changing Way Tennessee Judges are Picked

The debate is warming up over a proposed constitutional amendment to change the way appellate judges are selected in Tennessee.

The Tennessee Sheriffs’ Association and the Tennessee State Lodge of  Fraternal Order of Police have urged Tennesseans to vote “yes” on the ballot item in November, according to a Crossville Chronicle article, which appeared to reprint a news release.

“Amendment 2 brings new clarity and accountability to the process of selecting Tennessee’s Supreme Court and appellate court judges,” said FOP President Johnny Crumby. “We need the best judges, not the best politicians. Amendment 2 will help ensure that we get the fair and impartial judges that Tennesseans want and need.” Read more

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Online Ad Urges ‘Yes’ Vote on Changing TN Judicial Selection

Image from online ad

Image from online ad

A new online ad was rolled out by supporters of a proposed constitutional amendment to change the way appellate judges are selected in Tennessee. It is narrated by former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson, a Republican.

The ad says the constitutional amendment would “prevent outsiders from buying our courts” and “protect our vote” on whether appellate judges get another term. It spotlights support for the proposal from Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, and former Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat. It comes as debate over the proposal is heating up.

The Nashville Post reported that state Sen. Mark Norris, the Republican majority leader, said attacks on three Tennessee Supreme Court justices in advance of last month’s retention election could hurt prospects for the amendment when voters go to the polls. In The Tennessean, an op-ed by George Scoville asked, “Would the Founding Fathers Support Amendment 2?” Read more

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Top Tennessee Judge: No Politics When Attorney General is Named

justice_leeSharon Lee, the new Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice, said there will be no partisan politics involved when the court selects a new state attorney general.

Before Justice Lee and two colleagues were retained in a hard-fought election last month, their foes made a central issue of the court’s earlier selection of Bob Cooper as attorney general, contending he was anti-business.

“I think the voters rejected partisan politics in our judiciary with the election,” Justice Lee said this week, according to a blog of the Knoxville News Sentinel. ”And they certainly will not have any place in the selection of the attorney general, or how we do the rest of our jobs.” The court will conduct public interviews of eight candidates for attorney general next week. Read more

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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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Tennessee Judicial Selection Change on Ballot This Fall

This fall, Tennessee voters will consider a ballot item to change the way appellate judges are elected. It’s getting more attention now, and an attorney told a Memphis area audience that if it is defeated, contested judicial elections are likely ahead.

“If amendment two fails, we are headed one place – full out contested candidate filed elections for our appellate positions. … That’s not a threat, that’s a promise,” said attorney Lang Wiseman, according to the Memphis Daily News. A former Shelby County Republican chairman, Wiseman called the idea of contested judicial elections “disastrous.” Read more

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Editorial: In Choosing MN Judges, Reform Would Be a Better Idea

Minnesota_quarter,_reverse_side,_2005Political party endorsement of judicial candidates serve “very little” good and are vastly outweighed by the harm they do “to public confidence in the impartiality of state judges,” a Minneapolis Star Tribune editorial declared.

The editorial discussed recent events that have caused an awkward position for the state GOP. The party endorsed a candidate for the state Supreme Court, Michelle MacDonald, and it subsequently was made public that she was facing charges on suspicion of drunken driving and resisting arrest.

The editorial spoke favorably of a proposal to reform the way Minnesota judges are selected, advocated by a group called the Coalition for Impartial Justice (for background, see Gavel Grab). The editorial explained: Read more

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In Arkansas, a Call to Weigh Shift to Merit Selection

justice-scalesIs a new debate ahead in Arkansas over the best way to select impartial judges?

The issue has been percolating lately (see Gavel Grab), and now Roy Ockert, editor emeritus of The Jonesboro Sun, has written a op-ed urging consideration of a shift from nonpartisan elections to the “Missouri Plan” of merit selection.

In Arkansas, Ockert writes, “we the people are still electing our judges, but the process is becoming corrupted.” He says the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision opened the door for special interest groups to raise large sums and then target and sometimes smear judicial candidates, who are limited by ethics restrictions in their ability to respond. Read more

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Editorial: Keep ‘Poisoned Waters’ of Politics, Money out of Courts

Sales-Tax-money-gavelThe toxic influence of special interest spending and partisan politics on judicial elections is drawing commentary in Arkansas, including a tough Log Cabin Democrat editorial.

“The story of Mike Maggio and the nursing home money is a textbook-worthy lesson on how politics and money will forever poison the waters of law and justice,” the editorial said.  Circuit Judge Maggio received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions tied to a nursing home company shortly before he reduced from $5.2 million to $1 million an award in the death of a resident at a company-owned facility (see Gavel Grab).

Moreover, couples challenging an Arkansas ban on marriage of same-sex couples have requested that any Arkansas Supreme Court justices who intend to run for re-election step aside from hearing an appeal in the matter,  the editorial mentioned. The plaintiffs say legislators have employed “intimidation tactics” to influence the outcome of an appeal before the high court (Gavel Grab has background). Read more

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Fixes Needed for N.M. Method of Judicial Selection, Judge Says

state-flag-new-mexicoJudge J. Miles Hanisee of the New Mexico Court of Appeals is among the latest to voice concern about a hybrid process that combines merit selection and partisan elections for picking state judges.

Eight new district court judges have recently been selected through a process that involves rigorous screening by nominating commissions, followed by gubernatorial appointment, Judge Hanisee writes in an Albuquerque Journal column.

But some of these judges will not serve beyond 2014 under the state’s hybrid system, as political party committees pick judges candidates for the general election and some newly selected sitting judges are not among them, he notes. Read more

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