History of Reform Efforts
Unsuccessful Reform Efforts
The first citizen’s conference on Alabama’s state courts was convened by the Alabama State Bar with the assistance of the American Judicature Society. The conference made a number of recommendations regarding the judiciary, including the creation of a unified system of courts, the establishment of an administrative office of courts, the granting of rule-making power to the supreme court, and merit selection of judges. Except for merit selection, all of these recommendations were later accomplished during the 1970s. 1973
The constitutional commission, which was created in 1969, had formulated a new judicial article in 1971. The second citizen’s conference on Alabama’s state courts, which convened in 1973, urged the legislature to submit the proposed article to voters. The legislature removed a provision creating a nominating commission for the appointment of judges to fill vacancies. The article, which made no changes to judicial selection methods, was ratified by 62.1% of voters in December. 1995
The third citizen’s conference on Alabama state courts was convened. The conference considered revision of the canons of judicial ethics and the selection of judges to fill vacancies and for new terms. The conference recommended merit selection to fill vacancies and nonpartisan elections for new terms. The Alabama Supreme Court addressed the recommended revision to the judicial canons, but no action was taken on the judicial selection recommendation. 1997
Proposals for nonpartisan elections were reported favorably from committee in both the house (Ala. H.B. 97-541) and senate (Ala. S.B. 97-431). However, both were postponed and were not carried over when the session ended.
A proposed constitutional amendment (SJR15) was introduced and later withdrawn that would have given legislators the power to confirm or reject the governor's judicial appointments. Similar amendments have been proposed several times in recent years. 2001
A proposed constitutional amendment (SJR22) was introduced that would have reduced term lengths of supreme court justices to six years, and terms of superior court judges to four years. The proposal died in committee. 2002
A proposed bill (SB159) would have reduced term lengths of court of appeals judges to six years.
HCR2056 called for replacing the merit selection process with a gubernatorial appointment and senate confirmation process. Judges would be subject to re-confirmation every four years. HB2057 would have allowed voters to decide whether the chairman of the senate judiciary committee, rather than a supreme court justice, should chair the state's three nominating commissions. Both bills passed the house judiciary committee. 2008
The house rejected a proposed constitutional amendment (HCR2024) that would have raised the county population threshold for merit selection from 250,000 to 800,000.
A proposed constitutional amendment eliminating merit selection for all superior court judges (HCR2063) was retained on the house calendar.
Since the adoption of merit selection in 1974, opponents have repeatedly introduced legislation to repeal or modify the system. A 1982 petition drive to eliminate merit selection garnered 70,000 of the 83,000 signatures needed to place the issue on the ballot. Various bills introduced in the legislature have been aimed at reinstating judicial elections, requiring senate confirmation of gubernatorial appointments, and altering the composition of judicial nominating commissions.
Constitutional convention held to draft new constitution, including improved judicial article that provided for nonpartisan elections with option for merit selection. New constitution was rejected by voters. 1991
Amendment (SJR-10) sponsored by the Arkansas Bar Association’s judicial article task force and the Arkansas Judicial Council called for nonpartisan election of trial judges and merit selection of appellate judges. It passed the senate, but failed by one vote to pass the house. 1995
Senate judiciary committee bill (SB-5) authorizing "independent" elections passed the senate by a substantial margin, but was never voted out of committee in the house and died at the end of the session. Earlier in the session, the bill had passed the senate with only one dissenting vote but was defeated in the house. These bills were opposed by the Arkansas Democratic Party, which cited the loss of filing fees each election year. It was estimated that passage of the bill would have cost the Democratic Party between $300,000 and $400,000 in filing fees each year. However, in the same session, with Act 901, the legislature removed one of the major obstacles to the adoption of nonpartisan elections by authorizing state funding for primary elections and thereby obviating the need to assess filing fees in order to fund party primaries. Filing fees paid by judicial candidates, and candidates for appellate judgeships in particular, were among the highest assessed by the state Democratic Party. 1997
A bill (SB-661) calling for nonpartisan judicial elections passed the senate but was never voted out of the house judiciary committee. It encountered opposition from house Democrats who argued that nonpartisan elections would reduce the cash that political parties obtain from judicial campaigns.
Voters rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have allowed judges to be recalled. 2006
Voters rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have created retroactive ten-year term limits for all appellate judges. The amendment would have forced five of the seven supreme court justices into immediate retirement.
District of Columbia
The "Local Court Reform Act of 2001" would have provided for selection of D.C. judges by the mayor with the consent of the council. The bill would also have allowed judges, rather than the judicial nomination commission, to select the chief judge, and would have removed the authority of the president and the chief judge of the D.C. federal district court to appoint members of the nomination commission. After two public hearings, the committee of the whole did not place the bill on the council's agenda.
Voters rejected a constitutional amendment that would have extended merit selection and retention to trial court judges. 1992
The senate approved a merit selection and retention bill for trial court judges, but the house failed to act on the measure. During a special legislative session in the same year, the proposed reforms received majority support but failed by two votes to achieve the required two-thirds support for a constitutional amendment. In a subsequent special session, the measure again failed in the senate despite a favorable majority vote. 1998
The legislature passed a bill requiring the governor to consider the race, ethnicity, and gender of nominees when making appointments to the judicial nominating commissions and requiring that each circuit nominating commission include at least one resident from each county within the circuit. The governor vetoed the bill, primarily because of practical problems with the residency requirement. 2000
According to a 1998 constitutional amendment, the option of merit selection and retention of trial judges was submitted to voters in each county, but it was overwhelmingly rejected in every jurisdiction. The average affirmative vote was 32%.
Proponents of merit selection and retention emphasized the number of disciplinary actions against elected judges and the potential for campaign contributions to tarnish the judiciary, while opponents stressed the right to vote for judges and the "closed door, elite" nature of the merit selection process. The Florida Bar spent $80,000 to promote the ballot measure, and another group, Citizens for Judicial Integrity, raised $37,000. The measure also received support in numerous editorials. Opposition to the measure came from the state's minority and women's bar associations, who worried that their gains on the bench would be diminished under merit selection. Members of these organizations formed Citizens for an Open Judiciary and spent approximately $75,000. Both sides offered speakers to address public gatherings and participate in debates. Two debates were sponsored by the American Bar Association and the American Judicature Society.
Voters rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have repealed the mandatory retirement age of 70 for judges. 2008
After amending the proposal to apply only to judges selected after November 5, 2008, the house approved a proposed constitutional amendment (SB3202) raising the mandatory retirement age for judges from 70 to 80, but the senate disagreed with the house amendment.
Proposed constitutional amendment (SJR-111) would have allowed district court judges to be selected as provided by law. Would have eliminated election as the only method of selecting district court judges and allowed legislature to determine the method.
Bill (SB-1400) would have instituted retention elections for district court judges1983
Proposed constitutional amendment (HJR-3) would have provided for nonpartisan election of court of appeals and magistrate judges. Would have added to the provision that political parties may not endorse or nominate judicial candidates the stipulation that parties may not endorse or nominate candidates "directly or indirectly." 1988
Bill (SB-1325) would have required the governor to fill supreme court vacancies with the advice and consent of the senate. 1995
Bill (SB-1007) would have required the governor to fill vacancies on supreme court, court of appeals, and district courts with the consent of the senate. Would have eliminated the judicial council's role in nominating candidates to fill judicial vacancies. 1998
Bill (HB-764) would have required the judicial council to submit names of candidates to fill judicial vacancies until the governor had chosen a nominee. Would have required the governor to choose nominees to fill judicial vacancies from list submitted by judicial council.
Proposed constitutional amendment (HJR-7) would have instituted merit selection of judges at all levels of courts.
A constitutional convention was convened in 1969 to draft a new constitution. The question of judicial selection was submitted to voters as a separate proposition. Voters were given the choice between Proposition 2A, calling for the partisan election of judges, or Proposition 2B, calling for judicial merit selection. Although Proposition 2B carried in several counties, including Cook County, it was defeated statewide by 146,000 votes. The placement of merit selection on the ballot was the result of nearly two decades of advocacy by the Illinois State Bar Association and the Chicago Bar Association. These organizations have continued to support merit selection of judges. 1973
In 1971, a coalition of civic organizations, including the ISBA, the CBA, the League of Women Voters of Illinois, and others, formed a committee on courts and justice with the sole purpose of sponsoring a merit selection resolution in each two-year session of the legislature. The committee did so from 1973 to 1986. Only twice, in 1973 and 1982, was the resolution put to a floor vote, and both times it failed. 1988
In the wake of judicial corruption scandals in the mid-1980s, Governor Thompson appointed a task force on judicial selection, but the task force's proposal died in committee. 1996
Two judicial selection reform measures were defeated on the senate floor. The first called for gubernatorial appointment of supreme court justices with senate consent and for merit selection of Cook County circuit judges. The second called for merit selection of judges of the appellate court and circuit court. A measure to require circuit court judges to be at least 35 years old and have ten years of legal experience failed in the house.
HB 1419 proposed three significant changes to the process for selecting and retaining judges: the bar would select three members of the judicial nominating commission from six nominations made by the house speaker and senate president; the existing members of the nominating commission would be removed, and a commission would be selected under the new process; and the nominating commission would vote on whether appellate judges should be retained, and the commission's recommendation would appear on the ballot. The bill passed the house rules committee but never received a floor vote. 2009
HB1491 would have replaced merit selection of superior court judges in St. Joseph County with nonpartisan elections and added three judgeships to the court of appeals. Approved by the legislature but vetoed by the governor.
Two bills were introduced that would have altered the way judges are selected. HCR 5012 called for nonpartisan election of supreme court justices, and SCR 1606 required confirmation of supreme court nominations. 2006
A proposed constitutional amendment calling for senate confirmation of supreme court nominees fell five votes shy of the two-thirds approval required. 2007
A bill that would have required the chief judge within a judicial district to be elected by the district judges instead of appointed by the supreme court was rejected by the senate 19-21.
There have not been any significant statewide reform efforts since 1972. Various house and senate bills have been introduced seeking repeal or modification of the merit selection system, but these bills have died in committee. There have also been efforts in individual counties to move back to an elective system. For example, Wyandotte County and Reno County adopted merit selection in 1974 but returned to partisan elections in 1980 and 1984, respectively. Shawnee County adopted merit selection in 1974; in 1984 and 2000, ballot initiatives calling for partisan elections failed. In 2008 and 2010, ballot initiatives calling for a return to partisan elections were rejected by voters in Johnson County, and in Atchison and Leavenworth Counties.
Voters rejected by a 4 to 1 margin a proposed revision to the judicial article that closely resembled the 1975 amendment.
Louisiana was one of the first states, if not the first, to consider appointing judges through a merit process. At the 1921 constitutional convention, a plan was proposed providing for the appointment of state judges by the governor from a list submitted by the supreme court. The convention ultimately adopted a plan continuing judicial elections. 1973
A merit selection plan was proposed but not adopted at the 1973 constitutional convention. 1978
The legislature passed two concurrent resolutions calling for studies of Louisiana's judicial election system. However, the joint subcommittee on merit selection of judges was unable to agree on a preferred selection method. Since 1978, at least one proposed constitutional amendment calling for merit selection has been introduced in all but one legislative session. 1988
SB 65 was the first bill proposing a merit plan constitutional amendment to be reported out of committee favorably. SB 65 was a joint effort between Senator Hainkel and the Louisiana Organization for Judicial Excellence (LOJE), and it delegated the responsibility for selecting members of the nominating commissions to civic and citizens' groups. A majority of Louisiana judges were opposed to the bill until pressure from three lawsuits challenging Louisiana's judicial election system as violating the Voting Rights Act caused judges to change their minds. The bill was reported favorably in spite of a lack of support from the Louisiana State Bar Association, and opposition from the Louisiana Trial Lawyers Association, the Louisiana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the Louis A. Martinet Society (an organization of black attorneys). However, as negotiations continued, it became clear that there were not enough favorable votes for passage in either the Senate or the House, and the bill was tabled. 1989
Governor Roemer appointed a task force on judicial selection to consider judicially mandated remedies to violations of the Voting Rights Act in several judicial circuits and districts. Several groups, including LOJE, the Lousiana District Judges Association, the Court of Appeals Judges Association, the New Orleans Chapter of the League of Women Voters, the Council for a Better Louisiana, the American Bar Association, and the American Judicature Society testified in favor of merit selection. Other groups, such as the Louisiana Trial Lawyers Association, the Louisiana District Attorneys Association, the Criminal Defendants Lawyers Association, and the Family Court and Juvenile Court Judges Association supported maintaining judicial elections. The task force recommended three alternatives: an elective plan with modifications in the problem circuits and districts, a merit selection plan, and a hybrid appointive/elective plan. The legislature also created ad hoc nominating commissions to recommend candidates for interim vacancies to the governor for appointment. The governor would select commission members from lists of names submitted by legislators in districts where the vacancies occurred. However, these proposed amendments were soundly defeated in an October referendum election. Ultimately, the legislature modified judicial circuits and districts to comply with the Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. 1992
A proposed constitutional amendment (HB 46) calling for judicial merit selection failed 58-43 in the House 1995
HB 908, which would have laid the groundwork for merit selection of judges, fell 19 votes short of the two- thirds approval needed to send a proposed constitutional amendment to the senate. 1997
SBs 206, 207, and 208, introduced by Senator Hainkel, and HBs 21, 213, 214, 215, and 216, sponsored by Representatives Donelon and Bruneau, called for the creation of judicial nominating commissions. 1999
Several bills calling for merit selection were introduced in both the house and senate by Representative Bruneau and Senator Hainkel. 2003
Representative Bruneau and Senator Hainkel again introduced bills calling for merit selection and retention of judges.
The senate approved a bill (SF3129) that would have extended the commission on judicial selection process (currently limited to district court and worker's compensation court of appeals vacancies) to appellate court vacancies, but the measure died in the house. 2009
The senate passed a bill (SB80) that would have limited campaign contributions to judicial candidates to $2000 in election years and $500 in other years, but the bill died in the house. 2010
SF 70/HF 224, which would have replaced contestable judicial elections with retention elections, was voted favorably out of two senate committees but stalled in a house committee.
A proposed constitutional amendment that would have lengthened the terms of chancery and circuit court judges from four to six years was rejected by voters by a 61-39 margin.
Fifty-seven Republican lawmakers proposed a constitutional amendment (HJR50) that would have replaced merit selection of judges with judicial elections. 2005
A handful of bills were proposed to alter the way that judges are selected and retained. One would have required senate confirmation of supreme court nominees (HJR10), while another would have required confirmation of both supreme court and court of appeals nominees (HJR11). A third bill would have reduced the term lengths of supreme court judges from 12 years to 5 years. 2007
Three ultimately unsuccessful measures were proposed. One called for gubernatorial appointment and senate confirmation of judges. A second proposal called for gubernatorial appointment with confirmation by a judicial confirmation commission that would be made up of attorneys in the senate, house, and private practice. A third proposal would have replaced retention elections with retention by the legislature every ten years, and would have allowed the governor to request removal by a two-thirds vote of the legislature. 2008
By a vote of 69-83, the House rejected HJR49. The proposal would have increased from 3 to 5 the number of judicial candidates submitted to the governor, allowed the governor to request a second list of 5 candidates, and given the lieutenant governor appointing authority if the governor failed to make a selection within 60 days of receiving the second list. The bill also would have added an additional nonlawyer member to the appellate judicial commission, and 2 lawyers and 3 nonlawyers to each circuit judicial commission. All commission members would have been appointed by the governor and confirmed by the senate. In addition, the bill would have required that the names of all judicial applicants be made public and that all candidate information available to the commissions be provided to the governor. 2009
The house approved a proposed constitutional amendment (HJR10) that would have modified the Missouri Plan for selecting judges in several ways. It would have added one nonlawyer member appointed by the governor to each of the circuit judicial commissions and the appellate judicial commission, opened the commissions' proceedings to the public, increased from three to four the number of candidates nominated by the commissions, and allowed the governor to reject the first list of candidates and request a second list. The proposal was blocked by a filibuster in the senate.
The Nonpartisan Court Plan also came under fire in the early 1980s. In 1982, a supreme court justice was accused by his colleagues of manipulating the selection process to "hand pick" the justices who would fill three vacancies on the court. In 1985, the governor appointed his thirty-three year old chief of staff, who had no judicial experience, to a vacancy on the supreme court. These events led to annual efforts by the general assembly to modify or replace the Nonpartisan Court Plan. Not surprisingly, some bills were directed at the ethics of the nominating commission and the governor in judicial appointments. A bill introduced in 1989 would have prohibited the governor from communicating directly or indirectly with members of the nominating commission until the nominees for a judicial vacancy were submitted to the governor. In both 1988 and 1991, proposals were made to abolish the Nonpartisan Court Plan. Between 1990 and 1993, measures were introduced that would alter the selection process for the nonlawyer members of nominating commissions; require senate approval of gubernatorial appointments; impose twelve-year term limits on all judges; increase the affirmative percentage required for retention to 60%; and allow voters to petition for a special retention election for judges in their area. While some of these bills garnered support, none were enacted.
A ballot initiative would have allowed citizens to use special elections to recall judges over any "dissatisfaction," but the supreme court found that there was "pervasive fraud" in the signature-collection process and declared the initiative invalid.
In recent legislative sessions, proposals calling for judicial term limits have been introduced by various legislators but have failed to make it out of committee.
LR 303CA, providing for the retention of supreme court and court of appeals judges on a statewide basis, passed the legislature but was rejected by the voters by a 55-45 margin.
Voters rejected a proposed constitutional amendment calling for merit selection and retention of judges. 1988
Voters rejected a proposed constitutional amendment calling for merit selection and retention of judges. 1992
Voters rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have provided for the selection of the chief justice by the court's members. The chief justice would have served a four-year term. 1995
AJR27 was rejected by the assembly. The proposed constitutional amendment called for judicial appointments and subsequent retention elections. The proposal was initiated by the Rose Commission, chaired by Chief Justice Bob Rose. 1996
Voters rejected by a 70-30 margin a constitutional amendment proposed by initiative that would have imposed term limits on Nevada judges. Under the proposal, judges could not be elected to the same court more than twice, or more than once if the judge had previously served on that court. Voters had approved the proposed amendment by the same 70-30 margin in 1994, but in the intervening two years, lawyers, judges, and concerned citizens mobilized to conduct a public education campaign in opposition to the measure. (Constitutional amendments proposed by initiative must be approved by voters in two consecutive general elections.) 1999
AJR18 would have amended the constitution to require staggered terms of office for district court judges. The measure passed the assembly but died in the senate. 2002
Voters rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have required judges appointed to fill interim vacancies to serve at least one year before standing for election, unless the term expired within that year. 2010
Voters rejected by 58-42 margin a proposed constitutional amendment calling for merit selection, retention elections (with 55% voter approval required), and judicial performance evaluation.
The senate approved a constitutional amendment (CACR 16) that would have established a judicial nominating commission. The commission would recommend qualified candidates for judicial appointment and would review judges for reappointment every 10 years. The proposal failed in the house.
Governor Shaheen vetoed a bill (HB 622) that would have prohibited the executive council from confirming a nominee to the supreme court within 60 days of the nomination and would have required the council to hold at least two public hearings on the nominee.2002
The senate approved a constitutional amendment (CACR 33) that would have established an independent commission to recommend qualified candidates for judicial appointment. The proposal failed in the house.
The house passed a bill (HB 1100) that would have required the judicial conduct commission, created by the legislature in 2001, to review judges' performance every seven years. The proposal failed in the senate.2003
The house rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have required senate approval of judicial appointments (CACR 3) and a bill that would have created a judicial nominating commission (HB 130).
In 2000, four justices of the New Hampshire Supreme Court came under fire. One justice resigned, two others faced impeachment hearings, and a third was impeached but not convicted. These events prompted a series of reform proposals aimed at strengthening the public's confidence in the judiciary.
In 1984, Senator William L. Gromley introduced a resolution that would change the senate's rules to do away with senatorial courtesy. The proposed resolution was never acted upon.
Senate approved by a 31-3 vote a bill that would return the state to partisan judicial elections.
A merit selection bill passed two readings on the house floor before failing on the third reading. 1977
A merit selection bill failed on the house floor. The measure was endorsed by the chief justice and the North Carolina Bar Association. 1989
The senate passed a bill calling for merit selection of appellate judges. The measure was supported by the state bar and many appellate judges but encountered opposition from trial lawyers and minority attorneys. 1991
The senate approved a bill calling for merit selection of appellate judges with general assembly confirmation. The bill never made it out of committee in the house. 1995
The senate approved a bill calling for gubernatorial appointment of appellate judges, legislative confirmation, and retention elections. The measure fell short of the three-fifths threshold in the house, despite visible support from the governor and the state's appellate judges. 1999
The senate approved a bill calling for merit selection and retention of appellate judges, but the measure was defeated in the house. The proposal was supported by North Carolina Citizens for Business and Industry but opposed by the North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers. The general assembly has considered bills to alter the method of selecting judges in almost every legislative session since 1971. Proposed reforms have included merit selection, gubernatorial appointment, and nonpartisan elections.
Issue 3, a ballot initiative to adopt merit selection for appellate judges, was defeated by voters by a 2 to 1 margin, losing in 80 of Ohio's 88 counties. Major proponents of Issue 3 were the Ohio State Bar Association and the League of Women Voters of Ohio, who co-authored the proposal, and the insurance and business communities. The most active opponents were the Ohio Academy of Trial Lawyers, Ohio AFL-CIO, and the state Democratic and Republican parties. [For an in-depth discussion of the Issue 3 campaign, see Felice, Kilwein, and Slotnick, "Judicial Reform in Ohio," in Champagne and Haydel (eds.), Judicial Reform in the States (Lanham, Md: University Press of America, 1993).]
The legislative task force on judicial selection was created for one year in order to study the current judicial selection process in Oklahoma and make recommendations for reform to the legislature. The twenty-member task force was made up of attorneys, judges, and laypersons. Although the task force decided that the current selection process be maintained, they adopted a number of recommendations for improving the process: that the legislature establish and fund a permanent mechanism for evaluating sitting judges and candidates for judicial positions; that terms for all judges be six years and that terms for district court judges be staggered; that four lay members be added to the judicial nominating commission, two to be appointed by the senate president pro tempore and two by the speaker of the house; and that the judicial nominating commission, the governor, and the chief justice be required to consider the ethnic, racial, and gender diversity of a judicial district's population when considering judicial appointments. The legislature has not yet acted on the task force's recommendations.
A bill (SB 805) calling for merit selection and retention of district court judges was approved by the senate but failed to pass in the house of representatives. The house judiciary committee amended the bill to provide for special nonpartisan elections to fill district court vacancies, with retention elections thereafter. The amended version also limited the terms of district court judges to four successive four-year terms. The bill died in committee.
A bill (HB 1591) calling for special nonpartisan elections to fill district court vacancies was approved by the house of representatives but failed to pass in the senate.2008
The house of representatives approved a proposed constitutional amendment (HJR1077) calling for senate confirmation of judicial appointments and reappointments, but the measure died in the senate.
Voters rejected a proposed constitutional amendment calling for merit selection of judges. 1982
Voters rejected a measure that would have allowed the governor to appoint the chief justice. 2002
Voters rejected two measures relating to the selection of judges. The first measure would have given voters a "none of the above" option when voting for judges and would have required mid-term judicial appointees to run for election at the next available election, rather than at the next general election. The second would have provided for the election of appellate judges from geographic districts rather than statewide. Both measures were placed on the ballot through initiative petitions and were intended to make judges more accountable. The push for these initiatives was motivated by a series of controversial court rulings reversing several voter-approved initiatives and by the release in 2000 of a death row inmate who, according to the court, had been denied the right to a speedy trial. Initiatives struck down by the Oregon Supreme Court included an omnibus measure that made various changes to the criminal justice process, such as allowing less-than-unanimous murder verdicts, limiting pretrial release, and establishing rights for crime victims, and a measure that imposed term limits for legislators and statewide officials.
The initiative petition for a "none of the above" ballot option was sponsored by a tax reform advocate and was intended to allow voters to express their displeasure in races where judicial candidates ran unopposed. The drive for district-based elections was led by Crime Victims United, a group that had supported the omnibus crime measure struck down by the court in 1998. According to supporters, district-based elections would ensure that perspectives from all areas of the state were represented on the appellate courts. Opposition to both measures was uniform and included such diverse organizations as unions, senior citizens groups, many judges and former judges, former governors, conservationist and land use groups, the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon, the Oregon State Bar, and the League of Women Voters of Oregon. The "none of the above" measure was rejected by a 44-56 margin, while the district-based elections measure failed by a more narrow margin of 49-51.2006
For the second time in four years, voters rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have required judges of the supreme court and court of appeals to be elected by district.
The legislature created the commission on constitutional revision, also known as the Woodside Commission. The commission's majority report recommended a "Pennsylvania Plan" for selecting judges, which called for gubernatorial appointment of judges from a list submitted by a nonpartisan nominating commission. 1963
The Governor's commission on constitutional revision recommended the adoption of merit selection. The issue was deferred until the constitutional convention of 1968. 1969
Following the constitutional convention of 1968, the merit selection question was submitted to the voters in the 1969 primary election. The proposal failed by a narrow margin due to the opposition of powerful party leaders. 1972
The Pomeroy Commission, headed by former supreme court justice Thomas Pomeroy, endorsed merit selection of judges. 1987
Governor Casey established by executive order the Pennsylvania judicial reform commission, also known as the Beck Commission. The commission recommended a merit selection plan with nonpartisan retention elections. 1990
Two virtually identical merit selection bills were introduced in the house of representatives and senate in the 1989-1990 session of the general assembly. SB 594 passed the senate but stalled in committee in the house. HB 941 was defeated in the house. A third bill (SB 1300), calling for regional elections of appellate judges, was defeated in the senate. 1998
The special commission to limit campaign expenditures, appointed by the supreme court in 1997 to study judicial campaigns, recommended that the general assembly enact legislation for public funding of judicial campaigns and allow voters to decide whether to adopt an appointive system for appellate judges.
Senate passed a bill that would amend the code of laws regarding the joint judicial screening committee (the precursor to the judicial merit selection commission). The legislation would have added four non-legislators (including two laypersons) to the joint judicial screening committee. The bill failed to pass the house. 1993
House proposed legislation that would amend the South Carolina Code of Laws prohibiting both direct and indirect solicitation of pledges to vote for legislation or for other candidates in exchange for approval of judicial candidates. 1994
A variety of bills were proposed in 1994 to alter South Carolina's judicial selection method, but none passed the general assembly. Lieutenant Governor Nick Theodore, Secretary of State Jim Miles, House Ethics Chairwoman Denny Neilson, and Common Cause representatives sponsored a bill calling for the creation of a judicial nominating commission to assist the general assembly in screening applicants for judgeships. Bills calling for popular retention elections and gubernatorial appointment were also proposed. 2007
Portions of a bill which would have required Senate confirmation of vacancy appointments were removed from a bill via a floor amendment
Voters rejected by a 62-38 margin a proposed constitutional amendment calling for merit selection of circuit court judges.
Voters rejected by a margin of 55% to 45% a proposal to include the Tennessee Plan in the state constitution. 1996
The commission on the future of the Tennessee judicial system issued a ninety-two page report recommending a complete overhaul of the Tennessee judiciary. The 34-member commission, which was made up of lawyers, laypersons, and judges, called for consolidating all trial courts and reducing the number of judicial districts. The commission also endorsed staggered terms for supreme court justices and the need for merit selection at all levels of the Tennessee judiciary.
The Texas Civil judicial Council proposed an amendment to the judicial article of the Texas Constitution, calling for merit selection of all Texas judges. The proposal was given wide distribution but was not adopted by the legislature. 1955
A proposed amendment to the judicial article, drafted by the Texas Civil Judicial Council, the state bar committee on administration of justice, and the advisory committee on revision of judicial selection of the Texas Constitution, was submitted to members of the Texas bar for approval or disapproval. The proposed amendment called not only for merit selection of appellate judges, with the option for merit selection of trial court judges, but also for merger of the supreme court and court of criminal appeals and centralized administration of the entire judiciary by the supreme court. Perhaps because of the broadness of the proposal, it was opposed by a majority of bar members who voted. In 1949, bar members had favored adoption of a Missouri Plan for Texas by a two-to-one margin, and in 1953, bar members had supported a proposed judicial article that called simply for merit selection of appellate judges and the option for merit selection of trial court judges. 1971
In 1971, Chief Justice Robert Calvert formed the task force for court improvement to draft a proposed revision to the judicial article. During the fall of 1972, eight citizens' conferences were held throughout the state to provide a forum for discussion of the proposal. Revisions were made by the task force, and the final product was presented to the 1973 session of the legislature. The revised proposal called for merit selection of judges. If merit selection was rejected by the voters, a proposal for nonpartisan judicial elections would then be submitted to voters. The legislature ultimately rejected the proposal. Also in 1972, voters approved the establishment of a constitutional revision commission. The commission proposed sweeping modernization of the Texas Constitution, including merit selection of appellate judges. The constitutional revision commission also suggested that the alternative of nonpartisan elections be submitted to a vote, but the merit selection plan was its primary proposal. 1974
Proposals by the constitutional review commission for both merit selection of judges and nonpartisan elections were rejected. Over the next four legislative sessions, more than fifteen proposals for merit selection and nonpartisan elections were also unsuccessful. 1986
Chief Justice John Hill formed the Committee of 100 to examine judicial selection and judicial campaign financing in Texas. The committee was composed of citizens appointed by Chief Justice Hill, the speaker of the house of representatives, and the lieutenant governor. The committee proposed the so-called "Texas Plan." In its initial formulation, the Texas Plan was similar in most respects to the Missouri Plan but was later revised to describe a merit election system. The Texas Plan engendered organized opposition in the form of the Committee of 250, composed primarily of Republican and Democratic Party county chairpersons who favored continuation of partisan elections. Plaintiff lawyers and organized labor opposed the Texas Plan as well. Six supreme court justices also joined the Committee of 250. Chief Justice Hill resigned from the supreme court in 1987, established the Committee for Merit Election, and formed Merit PAC to support candidates interested in reform. More recently, former Chief Justice Hill has established Texans for Judicial Excellence. 1987
Texas legislature passed a resolution creating a joint select committee on the judiciary to examine the state's judicial selection process and make recommendations for change. Released in 1988, the committee's final report called for a merit election system for appellate judges, where a screening commission recommended candidates to the governor, the governor nominated a candidate to be confirmed by the senate, and the candidate stood in an initial confirmation election and in retention elections thereafter; a nonpartisan election system for trial court judges; elimination of straight-ticket voting in judicial elections; lower campaign contribution limits and a shorter time period for accepting campaign contributions; and voter information pamphlets. 1995
SJR 26 and SB 313 called for gubernatorial appointment with senate confirmation and retention elections for all appellate judges and for nonpartisan elections and retention elections of district court judges. The bill passed the senate but died in committee in the house. 1996
The Texas Committee on Judicial Efficiency, based on recommendations from the judicial selection task force, advocated lengthening the terms of appellate judges to eight years and trial court judges to six years, and an "appoint-elect-retain" plan for selecting judges. 1997
Legislation (HJR 69 and HB 1175) calling for nonpartisan election of appellate judges passed the house. Three proposals (SB 409/SJR 23; SB 621/SJR 25; SB 628/SJR 26) relating to the appointment of appellate judges, nonpartisan election of district court judges, and elimination of straight-ticket voting in judicial elections were reported favorably out of committee in the senate but then stalled. 1999
SJR 9 and SB 59 calling for an appointment-retention system for appellate judges passed the senate but died in committee in the house near the end of the session.
Governor Bush vetoed a bill that would have required the secretary of state to provide internet judicial voter guides.2001
Legislation (SJR 3 and SB 129) calling for gubernatorial appointment of judges of the supreme court and court of criminal appeals was approved by the senate and by the house judicial affairs committee, but the legislative session ended before the house took further action. 2003
The senate approved legislation (SB 794) calling for gubernatorial appointment and retention of judges of the supreme court and court of criminal appeals, but the measure stalled in the house. In recent years, Representatives Pete Gallego and Robert Junell and Senators Robert Duncan and Rodney Ellis have been very active in introducing measures related to appointment of judges, nonpartisan judicial elections, elimination of straight-ticket voting in judicial elections, and public financing of judicial elections. With few exceptions, none of these measures have received floor votes. One obstacle to judicial selection reform in Texas is the fact that the Texas legislature only meets for six months every two years.
The senate approved a bill (SB19) that would raise the mandatory retirement age for judges from 70 to 75. A house committee approved an amended bill (HB783) setting the mandatory retirement age at 73, but the full house rejected the measure. Numerous proposals have been introduced over the years to establish a formal judicial nominating commission, but no proposal has succeeded to date.
The Walsh Commission was a 24-member committee of citizens, judges, and attorneys appointed by the governor and headed by a Seattle journalist. The Commission proposed a modified merit plan for selecting Washington judges. The proposal called for gubernatorial appointment of judges from recommendations made by a nominating commission. Judges would run in contested elections after one year in office, and in retention elections thereafter. The commission's proposal was never voted on by the legislature. However, the supreme court implemented the commission's recommendation regarding the distribution of a judicial voter pamphlet.
For more information about voter guides in Washington, see Judicial Selection Reform: Examples from Six States.2007
HB 2150, calling for merit selection of judges, passed the house judiciary committee.