S.285, H.3070 – Constitutional amendment to allow governor to appoint judges
S.285 would place a constitutional amendment on the ballot allowing the governor to appoint judges with the advice and consent of the Senate (currently they’re elected by the General Assembly).
While allowing the governor to appoint judges would go a long way toward restoring judicial independence – a vital element of ending legal corruption – this particular joint resolution would preserve legislative control through the Judicial Merit Selection Commission (JMSC). Ten of the fifteen members of the JMSC would be appointed by legislative leaders (the House speaker, Senate Judiciary chairman, and Senate president), and the governor could not nominate any individual who the JMSC had not found qualified. This would, essentially, preserve the legislature’s control of the judicial branch and in some ways would make things worse, as the JMSC’s composition would now be set in the state Constitution rather than state code.
H.3070 is similar, but would strike the requirement for a JMSC entirely – a positive reform. However, this bill would also require judges to be confirmed by the entire General Assembly rather than merely the Senate. A simple Senate confirmation is all that is needed to preserve the balance of power and ultimately, judicial independence, and anything more is undue legislative influence.