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Judicial selection legislation: 2022

April 27, 2022

By Bill Raftery

In 2022, 46 out of 50 states will be holding legislative sessions. In exactly half of these (23), the issue of judicial selection has or is being discussed and debated. NCSC’s Gavel to Gavel is the best source to track proposed legislation that is of the highest priority to the courts. This Trending Topic examines the bills that have been active or most notable in judicial selection as of April 22, 2022:

  • Alaska SB 129 details the information to be included in the voter information pamphlet for judges up for retention election. That bill was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and is pending in the Senate Rules Committee.
  • Kansas SCR 1621 would have eliminated the state’s merit/commission system for appointment to the Kansas Supreme Court and replaced it with a quasi-federal system with a gubernatorial appointment, senate confirmation, and retention elections. Such a system was put in place for the state’s Court of Appeals in 2013. The constitutional amendment failed by one vote (26-13) to receive the two-thirds majority needed to advance.
  • Idaho HB 782 would have, among other things, substantially restructured judicial selection and the state’s Judicial Council. Currently, when a judicial vacancy occurs, the governor must select from a slate of names provided by the Judicial Council. HB 782 would have allowed the governor to reject the slate of nominees provided by the Judicial Council to fill a judicial vacancy and forced the Council to provide new names. The state’s governor vetoed the bill but indicated he was open to “modernize and improve” judicial selection in the state.
  • Iowa HF 2481 increases the number of recommended candidates for appellate court openings from three to five, has the governor select lower-level judges instead of District Court judges making that selection, and allows judges in contiguous counties to be eligible for a judicial opening provided they move into the new district if selected. HF 2481 was signed into law on April 21.
  • New Mexico SJR 3 is a constitutional amendment that would allow appellate judges appointed to the bench to be able to serve on the appellate court for one year following appointment by the governor before having to go onto the general election ballot. SJR 3 will now head to the voters on the November 2022 ballot.
  • Tennessee HB 1708 provides that “notwithstanding any law to the contrary, a judicial candidate may personally solicit and accept campaign contributions.” HB 1708 was signed into law on March 18.

What significant changes to judicial selection are being discussed or debated in your state? Share them with us at Knowledge@ncsc.org or call 800-616-6164. Follow the National Center for State Courts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Vimeo.