Judicial Selection Workgroup Gets Closer to Recommendations

Legislative committee prepares recommendations on the merits of elections verses appointed pathways to the bench.

Last week the Legislative Committee Workgroup to Study Judicial Selection convened a public hearing and heard the testimony of twenty witnesses on the subject of whether or not changes should be made to the current process of judicial selection.

The current procedure in place allows for both appointments and contested elections and arguments were made by judges on both sides of the debate. Some preferred the reflection of the will of the people via contested elections and others expressed major concerns with partisan elections being a dangerous vehicle for deciding positions that require neutrality. Others individuals giving testimony alluded to division on the topic even amongst their own memberships and offices.

Transparency in the nominating process as well as public outreach and education were all sited as elements that will likely be included in the recommendations that could serve to bolster the argument either way. Some of these elements could end up in a legislative initiative to tweak the election procedures as well as the nomination process, short of abolishing the existing election process.

The workgroup has an initial end date of March 1, 2023 but has scheduled a handful of meetings in the coming weeks with the intention of distributing a set of recommendations ahead of General Assembly reconvening in January. If the state were to abolish the circuit court election procedure it would need to be accomplished public referendum to amend the state constitution.

Recorded meetings of the Judicial Selections Workgroup.