History of Reform Efforts
Altering Selection Methods
Method of selection and term lengths for judges of the supreme court, court of appeals, circuit court, and district court are prescribed in the Arkansas constitution. Thus, any changes must occur through constitutional amendment. Amendments may be proposed by a majority of the members of each house of the general assembly or by initiative petition signed by 10% of voters. Proposed amendments must then be approved by a majority of voters at the next general election.
Section 18 of the new judicial article provides that the general assembly may refer the issue of merit selection of judges of the supreme court and the court of appeals to the voters at any general election. If the voters approve a merit selection system, the general assembly is authorized to enact laws creating a judicial nominating commission.
District of Columbia
The constitution also gives the governor the authority to fill vacancies on the supreme court, and the governor has statutory authorization to fill vacancies on the court of appeals and district courts. The legislature prescribes the process for filling vacancies.
An amendment to the Idaho Constitution must be passed by two thirds of the members of both houses of the state legislature and by a majority of the voters.
District court judges are elected in any judicial district that has not adopted merit selection. Under the state's constitution, a change to merit selection must be approved by the voters of the district. To adopt merit selection, a petition signed by 5% of the electors of that district must be submitted to the secretary of state. A merit selection proposition is then placed on the ballot in the next general election. The proposition must be passed a majority of voters in that district.
There have been efforts over the years to establish through legislation a judicial nominating commission to recommend candidates for judicial appointment. In 1975, Governor Thomson vetoed a bill that would have established a judicial selection commission. The vetoed legislation was reintroduced in 1977. At the request of the legislature, the New Hampshire Supreme Court issued an advisory opinion regarding the constitutionality of establishing a judicial selection commission through legislation. The court ruled that such legislation would be "an unconstitutional encroachment upon the powers of the Governor and the Council," over the vigorous dissent of two justices. Opinion of the Justices, 117 N.H. 398 (1977).
The constitution was amended in 1977 to provide for merit selection of court of appeals judges; merit selection for other judicial offices has been established by executive order. Since the mid-1970s, governors and New York City mayors have used judicial nominating commissions to assist them in making appointments, either for full terms or to fill interim vacancies. Executive orders are the purview of each chief executive.
Method of selection and term lengths for judges of the court of civil appeals are prescribed by statute.
Proposed constitutional amendments must be passed by a majority of the members of each house of the general assembly in one session and then by two thirds of the members in the next session. They must then be approved by a majority of those voting for governor at the next general election.