Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Ballot Measures' Category

Former Tennessee Justice: Support Judicial Selection Amendment

Justice Koch

Justice Koch

Former Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Bill Koch strongly supported adoption of a proposed constitutional amendment about judicial selection when he addressed the Rotary Club of Nashville on Monday.

“If we revert back to high-spending, partisan, political statewide races, we will inevitably undermine the public’s trust and confidence in the rule of law, because the public will think justice can be bought,” he said, according to The Tennessean. “And justice cannot be bought.”

Justice Koch said the amendment would write into the state constitution Tennessee’s existing appointive system for choosing appellate judges, plus retention (up-or-down) elections when judges seek a new term; in a change, it would make judicial appointments subject to legislative confirmation. Read more

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Will Tennessee Continue to Appoint Judges?


On November 4th, Tennesseans will have the opportunity to vote on Amendment 2, which would allow the governor to continue to appoint appellate court judges but would also include a confirmation process by the Legislature. Voters would still participate through retention elections following the appointments. Amendment 2 would integrate the process into the state Constitution rather than state statute as it is presently.

Groups have organized on both sides of the amendment. The Vote Yes on 2 campaign had raised more than $400,000 by July and spent about $50,000, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel. The Vote No on 2 campaign was organized shortly before the July reporting deadline and had not raised any funds by that time. A spokesman said that the fundraising has no hope of reaching that of the Vote Yes on 2 campaign. Read more

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Important Judicial Appointment Measure is Widely Overlooked

A proposed constitutional amendment about naming certain Florida judges will be one of three to come before state voters in November, and it “could have the most impact on state policy” but is widely overlooked.

A WFSU report offered that take on Amendment 3, which  would allow an outgoing governor to make prospective appointments of judges to fill vacancies that occur on inauguration day. Some critics say it would allow Florida’s next governor to pack the state Supreme Court by filling three vacancies that are expected to take effect on inauguration day in 2019. Read more

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LWV of Florida Will Oppose Constitutional Amendment

The League of Women Voters of Florida has announced its opposition to a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow an outgoing governor to make certain prospective appointments of judges.

votersThe organization announced its opposition in a conference call this week, according to the Orlando Weekly blog, and retired Florida Supreme Court Justice Harry Anstead, a participant in the call, labeled the proposal “the latest in continuing efforts to politicize the third branch of government.”

At its own website, the League of Women Voters of Florida states about the proposal, “the League cannot support an amendment that could be used to undermine the independence of the judiciary; that is why we do not support Amendment 3.” Voters will weigh the ballot measure in November. Read more

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Pros and Cons of TN Constitutional Amendment Debated

Yeson2_logo2Advocates for a proposed constitutional amendment in Tennessee say that without it, special interest groups from outside the Volunteer State could pour money into judicial elections and influence state judges and courts.

The proposal, facing voters in November, would affect 29 appeals court and state Supreme Court judges. ”If each of those 29 judges has to run in statewide, contested elections, that is going to flood the state with lots of money for negative ads,” said John Crisp of the Vote Yes on 2 campaign, according to a Courthouse News Service article about the ballot item.

10299085_761141940583566_5241205864264201613_nOpponents contend the measure would steal away voters’ rights by effectively removing their right to elect any of the 29 judges. “The Tennessee constitution gives the citizens of the state the right to judge the judges who judge us,” Vote No on 2 spokesman John Avery Emison said. “[Amendment 2 is] a step away from self-government.” Read more

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California Citizens United Ballot Initiative on Hold

Yesterday, the California Supreme Court issued a ruling halting action on a state ballot initiative that would have asked California voters’ opinions regarding the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. F.E.C. (2010), the Los Angeles Times reports.

The provision, which would have had no binding legal effect, was contested because it would “not change state law.”

The ballot initiative is now on hold pending court review. Both sides agree that this decision means that the question will not appear on this year’s ballot.

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Preview of Ballot Measures Affecting Courts is Available

A preview of issues affecting state courts that will appear on state ballots this fall comes from Gavel to Gavel, a publication of the National Center for State Courts.

The preview includes several contentious issues that have been mentioned in Gavel Grab: a proposed constitutional amendment to help preserve an appointive process for selecting Tennessee appellate judges (click here for Gavel Grab) and a proposed constitutional amendment to permit the outgoing Florida governor to make prospective appointments of judges, which has drawn criticism as a court-packing scheme (click here for Gavel Grab).

The National Center for State Courts is a JAS partner organization.

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Voters Defeat N.Y. Proposal to Raise Judicial Retirement Age

A proposed constitutional amendment to raise the mandatory retirement age to 80 for judges on the New York Court of Appeals and Supreme Court was rejected by voters on Election Day.

Sixty-one percent of voters opposed the measure, and 39 percent favored it, with results from 83 percent of precincts available, the New York Times reported. The newspaper discussed numerous political implications and motivations at play in the vote.

It was a “stinging rebuke” for New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, who had advocated for the measure, according to the article, while Gov. Andrew Cuomo had lobbied against it. If adopted, the measure would have reduced Cuomo’s ability to shape the face of the highest court, because it would have lengthened the terms of several judges seated on it.

It was the fourth defeat in a row for proposals to raise state judges’ retirement ages across the country, according to Gavel to Gavel, a publication of the National Center for State Courts. It is a JAS partner organization.

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Raising the Standard of Judicial Elections in Minnesota

The Coalition for Impartial Justice is hoping to raise the standard for electing judges in Minnesota.  The Coalition is showing support for the proposed Impartial Justice Act, which needs to pass the Minnesota House and Senate before heading to voters and would require judges to be evaluated by merit, retention elections and public performance evaluations.

Northlands Newscenter reported on a discussion of the proposal last Thursday, led by Iron Range Representative and the Impartial Justice Act co-author, Carly Melin.  The piece noted that organizers said the proposal will give voters the tools they need to elect qualified judges.  Sarah Walker, the President of the Coalition for Impartial Justice spoke to the benefits of the proposal.

“The reality is, you go to the ballot box, you turn over the ballot and no one has any idea who they’re voting for and I think that’s wrong. Furthermore, 90% of judges run unopposed and while we have a quality judiciary, occasionally you need to get rid of one bad apple. The reality is, we have no way to do that when over 90% of judges run unopposed,”

It is believed that the ballot will include the proposal in 2014.

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Elections, Instead of Merit Selection, Sought for Top Judges in Missouri

Missouri’s nationally recognized merit selection system for selecting top judges could face still another attack.

Approval by the secretary of state’s office for two similar constitutional amendments this week means supporters can begin working to seek enough signatures to bring the issue before voters in November 2014, according to the Associated Press. The proposals seek to replace merit selection with popular election of judges, and they would expand the size of the state Supreme Court from seven to nine justices.

The “Missouri Plan” for selecting  judges has provided a model for many other states. Critics of the plan, from both inside and outside the state, have launched attacks on it for more than a decade. Read more

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