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Nevada 2010 ballot includes amendment to appoint judges
Nevada: Last month the Nevada Legislature approved a plan to appoint rather than elect state judges for the 2010 November ballot and already the measure has become a hot button issue for the state. The proposed constitutional amendment calls for the creation of a selection panel that would recommend candidates to the governor for appointment. After the judges' first term, voters will decide whether to allow the appointed judges to retain their positions. They would have to garner approximately 55% of the vote to stay in office.
Amendment supporters argue that the appointment process would result in more qualified judges and remove the influence of campaign money. Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor sent Nevada officials a letter in support of the proposal. She wrote, “Citizens can be confident that appointed judges are insulated from special interests who would seek to buy justice through campaign donations.” Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, who is possibly running for governor in 2010, said, “I support it because too often I see people who don’t know who they are voting for. And we certainly have seen some examples recently of folks who have not done a very good job. They have become poster children for the argument that it makes more sense to have experienced, thoughtful jurists on the bench.”
Opponents, on the other hand, said that the amendment removes voting rights and places the decision only in the hands of a few - the selection panel. “I’m against anything that alters the voters’ rights to pick judges. Judges should be held as accountable as any other public official,” said Republican political consultant Sig Rogich. The Nevada Eagle Forum also opposes the change.
Current Nevada Chief Justice James Hardesty said that while he does not necessarily support the proposed amendment, he does support the move to an appointment process. Others said that while the appointment issue will be a hot point of discussion next year, it will also play a role for those running for political office in 2010. The issue will force candidates to pick a side, said Dan Hart, a Democratic political consultant.
- The constitutional amendment developed after Judge Elizabeth Halverson was permanently removed from the bench in 2008. She was suspended in 2007. The Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline found her guilty of sleeping during hearings, making improper contact with jurors, mistreating her staff, improperly hiring two bodyguards and making improper and misleading statements to the press.
- Currently 16 states are using the appointment process.
- Las Vegas Sun,"Lawmakers pave way for vote on appointing judges," June 6, 2009
- Las Vegas Sun,"Proposal to appoint judges seen as hot issue," July 7, 2009
- Las Vegas Sun,"Judge Elizabeth Halverson permanently removed from bench," November 17, 2008