Fair Courts E-lert: Bill Calls For Partisan Elections for NC Lower Courts; DE Courts' Political Balance Challenged

February 24, 2017

STATE JUDICIAL SELECTION

NC Bill Would Reinstate Partisan Elections for Lower Courts

The North Carolina House elections committee approved a bill that would reinstate partisan elections for the state’s district and superior courts, writes Colin Campbell for The News & Observer. According to Campbell, the Republicans sponsoring the bill argue that “it would give voters much-needed information about the candidates.” One of the sponsors, Rep. Justin Burr (R-Albemarle) said the current system “has caused confusion and allowed judicial candidates to win for no other reason than their place on the ballot or a catchy name.” This bill, he argues, will “provide the voters with at least a general idea of each candidate’s judicial philosophy.” Republican supporters also point out that “both political parties already endorse judicial candidates and provide lists of candidates at the polls.” Rep. Grier Martin (D-Raleigh) said that while “he agrees that voters in local judicial elections often don’t have enough information about the candidates,” he thinks “a candidate’s legal experience is more useful than knowing their party affiliation.”

Op-Ed: UT Senate Should Not Prevent Consideration of Diversity for State Judges

The Editorial Board of the Salt Lake Tribune spoke out against legislation that recently passed the Utah House, which would prevent the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice (CCJJ) from considering diversity when nominating individuals to positions on Utah’s district, appellate, and state supreme courts. Rep. Merrill Nelson (R-Grantsville), who introduced the bill, said the current practice “is wrong, if not outright unconstitutional, because it considers factors other than a candidate’s ‘fitness for office.’” The editorial counters that “those who sit in judgment over other Utahns are predominately male and overwhelmingly white,” which is “not good for a system that presumes to dispense justice to, and holds great power over, a populace that is much more diverse.” It argues that “[o]ne way to build...trust is to take some pains to diversify the faces, the experiences, the backgrounds of the people who enforce that law, on the street and in the courtroom.” Furthermore, a diverse judiciary makes “judges of all shapes and colors...fuller human beings, and thus better judges.” The editorial board concludes that “[f]ears that the current system will dumb down the Utah judiciary are unfounded. The Legislature should leave well enough alone.”

Lawsuit Challenges DE Courts’ Political Balance Requirement

A Delaware attorney, James Adams, has filed a lawsuit challenging the state constitution’s political balance requirement for Delaware’s Supreme Court, Chancery Court, and Superior Court, writes Brandon Bossert for WDMT.com. Adams, a former Democrat, argues that “the provision is unconstitutional under the freedom of political association guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution.” According to Bossert, Adams claims that “he wanted to apply for judgeships in the past” but that “doing so would have been futile because he was not a member of the required political party.” Sam Hoff, a professor at Delaware State University, said the line of reasoning in Adams’ suit “will have a hard time standing up in court,” arguing that “[s]omeone could use the same rationale to say where there are limits, such as age that they want on the court and the age restriction is limiting them.” However, Hoff also says that a suit would “have a much better chance using that rationale that it's discriminatory toward third or minor parties than being discriminatory toward an individual.”


JUDICIAL INDEPENDENCE

TN Rally Planned to Urge Representatives to Impeach Federal Judges over Travel Ban

America First Tennessee and other local organizations announced their plan to organize the “Spirit of America Rally” next month, with the goal of “giv[ing] voice to the overwhelming support of the Trump Presidency by the people of Tennessee, as well as to raise awareness to the widespread problem with judicial overreach, and what citizens can do about it,” according to The Tennessee Star. Mark Skoda, a rally organizer and the Memphis Tea Party Founder, said the rally will “urge our Representatives...to impeach, and for the Senate to try, convict, and remove [Federal District] Judge James Robart in Washington and [Federal District] Judge Leonie Brinkema in Virginia.” Both judges issued rulings halting President Donald Trump’s travel ban. He continued that the judges “expose an allegiance not to the Constitution to which they swore an oath to uphold, but instead to a Leftist ideology that is, in fact, anti-Constitutional.” The Tennessee Star highlights that “[s]ince the ratification of the Constitution in 1789, [only] fifteen federal judges have been impeached.”