THE SENATE

S.B. NO.

2238

TWENTY-EIGHTH LEGISLATURE, 2016

 

STATE OF HAWAII

 

 

 

 

 

 

A BILL FOR AN ACT

 

 

relating to judicial elections.

 

 

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF HAWAII:

 


PART I

SECTION 1. The legislature finds that S.B. No.   , Regular Session of 2016, proposes an amendment to the Hawaii State Constitution to require all justices and judges to be elected to serve six-year terms and be subject to the consent of the senate for subsequent judicial terms; authorize the governor and chief justice to make interim appointments for vacancies in the offices of the chief justice, supreme court, intermediate appellate court, and circuit courts, or district courts, respectively; and repeal the judicial selection commission.

The purpose of this part is to make conforming amendments to carry out the requirements of S.B. No.   , Regular Session of 2016.

SECTION 2. Section 603-6, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended to read as follows:

"603-6 Residence of judge. Every judge of a circuit court shall reside in the circuit for which the judge is [appointed.] elected."

SECTION 3. Section 604-2, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by amending its title and subsection (a) to read as follows:

"604-2 [Appointment] Election and tenure of district judges; per diem district judges. (a) [The chief justice of the supreme court, with the consent of the senate, shall appoint district judges.] District judges shall be elected by the qualified voters of this State at a general election as provided by law. Each judge shall reside in the judicial circuit for which the judge is [appointed] elected and shall have been an attorney licensed to practice in all the courts of the State for at least five years. District judges shall hold office for a term of six years and until their successors are elected or appointed in the interim and qualified; provided that any judge may be reprimanded, disciplined, suspended with or without salary, relieved, or removed from office for misconduct or disability, as provided by rules adopted by the supreme court."

PART II

SECTION 4. The legislature finds that merit selection is a commission-based appointment where a nominating commission screens applicants and selects the most highly qualified candidates for a judicial vacancy. An elected official, usually the governor, appoints one of the recommended candidates. Most merit selection plans include the use of a retention election after the selected judge has served for a specified period. However, there has been a trend in the last decade to eliminate the merit selection of judges or alter its components.

Approximately twenty-two states select their state judges through partisan or nonpartisan elections rather than merit selection. In partisan elections, judicial candidates usually run initially in a party primary to win nomination. Subsequently, partisan nominees run in the general election in which party affiliation is indicated on the ballot. In nonpartisan elections, voters select a candidate at the polls, but the names of the judicial candidates appear on the ballot without party labels.

Proponents of judicial elections often state that the public should have the opportunity to select judicial candidates in open, contested elections as the public selects other government officials. Furthermore, proponents argue that merit selection does not eliminate politics from the selection process, but instead transfers popular politics to behind-the-scene political control. Lastly, proponents express concerns that merit selection may exclude minorities from the bench or diminish their chances of filling judicial seats.

Hawaii has a variation of the judicial merit selection plan that includes a nominating committee, but does not require retention elections for subsequent judicial terms. Pursuant to the Hawaii State Constitution, vacancies in the office of the chief justice, supreme court, intermediate appellate court, and circuit courts are appointed by the governor and vacancies in the district courts are appointed by the chief justice, with the consent of the senate, from a list of nominees compiled by the judicial selection commission. Justices and judges are required to petition the judicial selection commission to be retained in office. If the commission determines that the justice or judge should be retained, the commission is authorized to renew the justice's or judge's term.

The legislature further finds that S.B. No.   , Regular Session of 2016, proposes amendments to the Hawaii State Constitution, to repeal the judicial selection commission and require that all justices and judges be elected by the qualified voters rather than appointed by the governor or chief justice with the consent of the senate. However, discussion and planning are necessary before repealing the State's merit selection system and adopting an election process for state justices and judges. Specifically, further discussion is necessary to ensure that the implementation of a judicial election system is carried out efficiently and effectively without compromising the integrity of the election process or the State's judicial system.

The purpose of this part is to require the judiciary, office of elections, and campaign spending commission to study appropriate methods of implementing a judicial election system in the State and submit a written report, including proposed legislation, to the legislature.

SECTION 5. The judiciary shall review state laws applicable to justices and judges and study appropriate methods of accommodating justices and judges who are elected rather than appointed. Specifically, the judiciary shall:

(1) Review applicable state laws applicable to justices and judges, including but not limited to chapters 571, 601, 602, 603, 604, and 604A, Hawaii Revised Statutes, and determine the potential impact that electing, rather than appointing, justices and judges may have on existing laws and the judiciary;

(2) Study the judicial election laws of other jurisdictions that have judicial election systems and determine whether those systems may be appropriate for Hawaii's judicial system;

(3) Determine appropriate methods of implementing a program for the election of justices and judges, including any proposed legislation; and

(4) Determine methods to implement an election program in the period between the general elections of 2018 and 2020, if S.B. No.   , Regular Session of 2016, is ratified during the general election of 2018.

The judiciary shall submit a written report of its findings and recommendations, including any proposed legislation, to the legislature no later than twenty days prior to the convening of the regular session of 2017.

SECTION 6. The office of elections shall review chapter 11, Hawaii Revised Statutes, and study appropriate methods of implementing a program for the election of justices and judges. Specifically, the office of elections shall:

(1) Review chapter 11, Hawaii Revised Statutes, and determine the potential impact that a judicial election system may have on existing election laws;

(2) Study the election laws of other jurisdictions that have judicial election systems;

(3) Determine appropriate methods of implementing a program for the election of justices and judges, including any proposed legislation; and

(4) Determine methods to implement an election program in the period between the general elections of 2018 and 2020, if S.B. No.   , Regular Session of 2016, is ratified during the general election of 2018.

The office of elections shall submit a written report of its findings and recommendations, including any proposed legislation, to the legislature no later than twenty days prior to the convening of the regular session of 2017.

SECTION 7. The campaign spending commission shall review part XIII of chapter 11, Hawaii Revised Statutes, and study appropriate methods of implementing a campaign finance program for judicial elections. Specifically, the campaign spending commission shall:

(1) Review part XIII of chapter 11, Hawaii Revised Statutes, and determine the potential impact that a judicial election system may have on existing campaign finance laws;

(2) Study the campaign finance laws of other jurisdictions that have judicial election systems;

(3) Determine appropriate methods of implementing a campaign finance program for judicial elections, including any proposed legislation; and

(4) Determine methods to implement a campaign finance program in the period between the general elections of 2018 and 2020, if S.B. No.   , Regular Session of 2016, is ratified during the general election of 2018.

The campaign spending commission shall submit a written report of its findings and recommendations, including any proposed legislation, to the legislature no later than twenty days prior to the convening of the regular session of 2017.

SECTION 8. In the course of discussion and study, the judiciary, office of elections, and campaign spending commission may consult and collaborate to determine appropriate methods of implementing a judicial election system in the State.

PART III

SECTION 9. Statutory material to be repealed is bracketed and stricken. New statutory material is underscored.

SECTION 10. This Act shall take effect upon its approval; provided that part I of this Act shall take effect upon its approval and upon ratification of a constitutional amendment requiring all justices and judges to be elected to serve six-year terms and be subject to the consent of the senate for subsequent judicial terms, authorizing the governor and chief justice to make interim appointments for vacancies in the offices of the chief justice, supreme court, intermediate appellate court, and circuit courts, or district courts, respectively, and repealing the judicial selection commission.

 

INTRODUCED BY:

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Report Title:

Elections; Judges; Judiciary; Office of Elections; Campaign Spending Commission

 

Description:

Makes conforming amendments to implement a constitutional amendment that establishes judicial elections. Requires the judiciary, office of elections, and campaign spending commission to study appropriate methods of implementing a judicial election system in the State and submit a written report, including proposed legislation, to the legislature.

 

 

 

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