Gavel Grab

Archive for the ‘*JAS Partner Blogs’ Category

A Historic Race for PA Court, But Are Voters ‘Snoozing’?

With the Pennsylvania Supreme Court election less than a week away, a CBS Philly report says “many voters are snoozing” through what could be the state’s most historic judicial election in 300 years.

That’s because it is the first time in modern history that three seats have been up for grabs at one time on the state’s highest court, and the election has drawn competition from seven candidates raising more than $10 million so far. And because judicial elections, especially those held in a year when federal elections are not scheduled, are typically low turnout affairs.

Gavel to Gavel, a publication of the National Center for State Courts, said it will provide live election night coverage next week of races affecting our state courts. The National Center for State Courts is a Justice at Stake partner organization.

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Measure Would Give MS Courts K-12 Funding Enforcement Power

Unlike two other states that have seen proposals to strip courts of their authority to enforce K-12 public education funding, Mississippi is considering a ballot measure to explicitly grant the enforcement power to the courts.

Gavel to Gavel reported that voters in Mississippi will weigh in November a proposed constitutional amendment stating the following:

“To protect each child’s fundamental right to educational opportunity, the State shall provide for the establishment, maintenance and support of an adequate and efficient system of free public schools. The chancery courts of this State shall have the power to enforce this section with appropriate injunctive relief.”

Read more

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Report: Strings Attached to Bill With Increased KS Court Funding

stock-footage-kansas-flag-loopA bill advancing in the Kansas legislature provides more funding for the state courts, on the condition that the courts do not rule favorably for the plaintiff in a recent lawsuit and find a law adopted last year unconstitutional.

That’s according to Gavel to Gavel, a publication of the National Center for State Courts, which noted, “For the second year in a row Kansas legislators appear poised to give the courts more money on the condition they do not strike down certain laws as unconstitutional.”

A year ago, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback signed legislation (see Gavel Grab) opposed by members of the state Supreme Court that provided increased court funding while making those funds contingent upon overhauling administration of the judicial system. The measure allowed local courts to opt out of state Supreme Court control over budget preparation and submission and took away the Supreme Court’s authority to pick chief district court judges. 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.

“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

North 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’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

The 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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