Luke Seeley

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Five Oklahoma justices serving on courts of last resort face retention elections

Oklahoma is one of two states with two courts of last resort. The Oklahoma Supreme Court is the court of last resort in the state for civil matters while the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals is the court of last resort for criminal matters.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court is composed of nine justices serving six-year terms who are appointed by the governor and then must face retention elections thereafter. Retention elections take place during Oklahoma’s general elections, which are held every two years in even-numbered years.

Four justices on the Oklahoma Supreme Court are up for retention election on November 3, 2020:

1. Tom Colbert
2. Richard Darby
3. M. John Kane IV
4. Dustin Rowe

Heading into the 2020 election, Republican governors have appointed four justices to the Oklahoma Supreme Court while Democratic governors have appointed five.

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals is composed of five judges serving six-year terms who are appointed by the governor and then must face retention elections thereafter.

Justice Gary Lumpkin on the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals is up for retention election on November 3, 2020.

Heading into the 2020 election, Republican governors have appointed four justices to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals while Democratic governors have appointed one.

Additional Reading:
Oklahoma elections, 2020
Oklahoma Supreme Court
Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals
Court of last resort
Oklahoma Judicial Nominating Commission

Arizona Supreme Court suspends certain time requirements in response to COVID-19

The Administrative Office of the Arizona Supreme Court issued a directive on Tuesday, March 24th, extending time limits for court-related deadlines.

Administrative Director of the Courts David K. Byers issued Administrative Directive No. 2020-03 as a response to the coronavirus (COVID-19). Chief Justice Robert Brutinel gave Byers the authority to suspend or alter time limits and court-related deadlines through Administrative Order No. 2020-45, which delegated such power to the administrative director of the courts during a health emergency.

The time limits and deadlines that have been extended include:
  • The suspension of the six-hour live program requirement in the Arizona Code of Judicial Administration.
  • The timeframe for new limited jurisdiction judges to complete New Judge Orientation.
  • The timeframe in which judges are supposed to attend programs both in and out of state.
  • The timeframe for probation officers to complete the Probation Officer Certification Academy and Institute for Intensive Probation Supervision.
  • The timeframe in which chief probation officers and directors of the juvenile court are supposed to attend programs both in and out of state.
  • The timeframe in which judges are to complete the specialized dependency-training program approved by the Committee on Judicial Education and Training.

The court also extended deadlines for the Court Appointed Special Advocate Program and the Legal Document Preparers continuing education requirements.

This is the latest in a string of responses by the Arizona state government to the coronavirus. Gov. Doug Ducey (R) declared a state of emergency in Arizona on March 11, 2020. As of March 20, 2020, Gov. Ducey had ordered all schools closed until April 10, 2020. While courts remain open, they are to avoid in-person proceedings to the greatest possible extent and have rescheduled all petit juries. As of March 24, 2020, the Arizona State Legislature had suspended its session until April 13, 2020.

Additional reading:

Rhode Island Supreme Court selection of justices

The Rhode Island Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort and has five judgeships. The current chief of the court is Paul Suttell.

The selection of supreme court justices begins with the Judicial Nominating Commission. The commission is composed of nine members. Five of the members must be attorneys. Various elected officials must submit lists of nominations for commission members. The governor receives those lists and then makes his or her selection for the commission seat. The governor picks one name from each of five lists compiled by the speaker of the Rhode Island House, the president of the Rhode Island Senate, the speaker and the president together, and the minority leaders of both houses respectively. The governor selects the final four members of the commission, but without any requirement that he do so from a previously prepared list.

This governor controlled commission submits three to five names to the Governor of Rhode Island, and upon receiving the names, the governor selects and appoints one. The appointed justice must then be approved by both the state senate and house of representatives.

Justices of the Rhode Island Supreme Court hold office for life. The seat of one Rhode Island Supreme Court justice, Justice Gilbert Indeglia, will be open upon Indeglia’s retirement on June 30.

Indeglia was a Republican member of the Rhode Island House of Representatives from 1985 to 1991. From 1989 to 2000, he served on the Rhode Island District Court. He joined the Rhode Island Superior Court in 2000 and served there until his appointment to the Rhode Island Supreme Court in 2010.

As of March 2020, all five justices on the court were appointed by a Republican governor. This will be Democratic Governor Gina Raimondo’s first appointment to Rhode Island’s highest court. She assumed office on January 6, 2015. Her current term ends on January 3, 2023.

Additional Reading:
Rhode Island Supreme Court
Rhode Island Judicial Nominating Commission
Gilbert v. Indeglia

South Carolina Supreme Court judicial selection

The five justices of the South Carolina supreme court are selected by the state legislature and serve 10-year terms. South Carolina and Virginia are the only two states to use some form of legislative selection when choosing supreme court justices.

The South Carolina Judicial Merit Selection Commission screens and selects candidates for judgeships then submits a list of three names to the general assembly. The assembly then votes on the candidates, either choosing one of the three recommendations or rejecting the entire slate. Of the five justices currently on the court, only one, Justice John Few, has faced a challenger for election. The other four justices ran unopposed for their respective selections.

The commission is composed of 10 members. The speaker of the House and the president of the Senate each appoint five members to the commission. Three of the five must be members of the General Assembly. The other two members are laypersons. Because of the roles of the speaker of the House and president of the Senate, the majority party in the legislature controls membership on the judicial nominating commission. If one party controls the House and another party controls the Senate, then control of commission membership is split.

South Carolina has had a Republican state government trifecta since 2003. All five of the justices serving on the supreme court were appointed during Republican control of the legislature and, thus, of the selection process.

This might indicate that all the justices on the supreme court would be Republican. However, the current chief justice, Donald Beatty, is a former Democratic state representative. He ran unopposed for the role of the chief justice and was legislatively elected in May 2016. He was the most senior member on the court prior to his selection as chief justice.

Additional Reading:
South Carolina Supreme Court
Legislative election of judges
Donald Beatty

Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) has appointed all seven justices on New York’s court of last resort

A court of last resort is the highest judicial body within a jurisdiction’s court system. It is a court with the highest appellate authority, meaning that its rulings are not subject to further review by another court. A court of last resort is often, but not always, referred to as a supreme court.

New York is one of those states which does not refer to their court of last resort as a supreme court. This can cause some confusion, as New York’s 62 highest general jurisdiction trial courts are named collectively the Supreme Court of the State of New York.

Founded in 1847, the New York Court of Appeals is the state’s court of last resort and has seven judgeships. As of September 2019, all seven justices on the court were appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo (D), the 56th governor of New York. The current chief of the court is Janet DiFiore. The other six justices are Rowan Wilson, Michael Garcia, Leslie E. Stein, Eugene Fahey, Jenny Rivera, and Paul G. Feinman.

The seven justices of the New York Court of Appeals serve 14-year terms. New York uses a form of assisted appointment when selecting its justices for the Court of Appeals. Justices are appointed by the governor from a list of candidates provided by the New York Commission on Judicial Nomination. After appointment by the governor, candidates must get confirmation from the New York Senate.

Additional Reading:
Court of last resort
Judicial selection in New York
Andrew Cuomo
Assisted appointment

Arkansas Supreme Court seat up for election on March 3rd

The term of one Arkansas Supreme Court justice, Josephine Hart, will expire on December 31, 2020. Justice Hart did not file for re-election. The seat is up for nonpartisan election on March 3, 2020, and a runoff election is scheduled for November 3, 2020. Hart was elected to this position on May 22, 2012.

Morgan Welch and Barbara Womack Webb are running in the general election for Hart’s seat on the court. Webb is a former Circuit Judge for the 22nd Judicial Circuit, appointed by Governor Asa Hutchinson (R).

Welch is the Division 16 judge on the Sixth Circuit in Arkansas. Welch was first elected to the position on May 22, 2012, and was re-elected in May 2018. His second term began on January 1, 2019, and expires on January 1, 2025.

There are seven justices on the Arkansas Supreme Court, each elected to eight-year terms. They compete in nonpartisan primaries (occurring at the same time as the primary elections for other state officials) in which a candidate who receives more than 50 percent of the vote wins the seat outright. If no candidate garners a majority of the vote, the top two candidates compete in a runoff during the general election.

The current justices on the court are:

  • Karen R. Baker – Elected in 2010
  • Josephine Hart – Elected in 2012
  • Courtney Hudson Goodson – Elected in 2010
  • Dan Kemp – Elected in 2016
  • Shawn Womack – Elected in 2016
  • Rhonda Wood – Elected in 2014
  • Robin Wynne – Elected in 2014

Justices serve staggered terms, so it is unlikely the entire court will be replaced in one election. Nonpartisan elections were implemented in 2000 with the passage of Amendment 3. Vacancies are filled by interim appointments by the governor of Arkansas under Amendment 29, Section 1, of the state constitution. Appointed justices may not run to succeed themselves in the next election. The court consists of a chief justice, a vice chief justice, and five associate justices. The court’s chief justice is selected by voters at large and serves in that capacity for a full eight-year term.

Click here to read more.

Additional reading:

Florida Supreme Court has one seat up for retention and two vacant

Two of the seven seats on the Florida Supreme Court are currently vacant. The seats were held by Robert Luck and Barbara Lagoa and will be filled by the current governor, Ron DeSantis (R), through assisted gubernatorial appointment.

Under the assisted gubernatorial appointment method, the Governor of Florida chooses from a list of three to six candidates recommended by a commission on judicial appointments. The appointment of a justice must be confirmed by a retention vote in the next general election at least one year after taking office.

DeSantis initially appointed Luck to the Florida Supreme Court in 2019. He is now a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. He was nominated to the court by President Donald Trump (R) on October 15, 2019, and confirmed by the United States Senate on November 19, 2019, by a vote of 64-31.

DeSantis initially appointed Lagoa to the Florida Supreme Court on January 9, 2019. She is now a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. On October 15, 2019, President Donald Trump (R) nominated Lagoa to a seat on this court. The U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination on November 20, 2019, by an 80-15 vote.

There is a chance that a third seat on the Court will be filled by a new justice in 2020. The term of Justice Carlos Muñiz will expire on January 5, 2021. He is up for retention election on November 3, 2020.

All five sitting justices were appointed by Republican governors. Justices serve six-year terms.

Click here to learn more about Florida’s 2020 Supreme Court elections.

Additional reading:
Florida Supreme Court 
Carlos Muñiz
Robert J. Luck 
Barbara Lagoa