Sara Reynolds

Sara Reynolds is a staff writer at Ballotpedia and can be reached at

Arkansas governor signs bill prohibiting sanctuary policies

Last week Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) signed a bill to prohibit sanctuary policies in Arkansas.
Senate Bill (SB) 411 amends Arkansas Code Title 14, Chapter 1, Subchapter 1, to include a provision prohibiting municipalities from adopting sanctuary policies. It also established that municipalities determined to be in violation of the law would be ineligible to receive state funds or grants until the policy was repealed. SB 411 defined a sanctuary policy as “an order, ordinance, or law enforcement policy, whether formally enacted or informally adopted by custom or practice” that limits municipal officials from cooperating with federal agencies to verify immigration status or from complying with federal detainer requests.
The legislation is scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2020.
Hutchinson said he opposed sanctuary cities but did not “see any change in policy going forward that would be disruptive to our society.” Arkansas had no sanctuary cities as defined by the bill at the time of its passage.
Supporters of the bill said it was meant to prevent cities in Arkansas from adopting sanctuary policies. Sen. Gary Stubblefield (R) said, “This is more a proactive measure to ward off something, some city in Arkansas saying, ‘hey, we’re going to set ourselves up as a sanctuary city.'” Opponents said the bill would damage the relationship between local law enforcement and the immigrant community.
Arkansas is one of 22 Republican trifectas.

9th Circuit panel unanimously upholds California law on federal immigration enforcement compliance

On April 18, 2019, Judges Milan Smith, Paul Watford, and Andrew Hurwitz of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit unanimously ruled that Senate Bill (SB) 54, California’s sanctuary state law, did not conflict with federal law.
Writing for the panel, Smith wrote that SB 54 “makes the jobs of federal immigration authorities more difficult” but “does not directly conflict with any obligation” that federal law imposes on state or local governments. Smith also wrote against a provision in AB 103. “Only those provisions that impose an additional economic burden exclusively on the federal government are invalid,” he said.
Smith was appointed to the court by President George W. Bush (R). Watford and Hurwitz were appointed by President Barack Obama (D).
The decision upheld U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California Judge John Mendez’s July 2018 ruling.
The Trump administration brought the lawsuit in March 2018. The lawsuit challenged three California statutes: SB 54, AB 450, and AB 103.
As passed, SB 54 established the following provisions:
  • Exempting state prisons from provisions prohibiting state law enforcement agencies from cooperating with federal immigration agents.
  • Permitting law enforcement officials to notify ICE of the release of certain individuals and share database information with immigration agents.
  • Allowing federal immigration agents to interview jailed individuals suspected of violating federal immigration law.
AB 103 established restrictions on state and local agencies, preventing them from contracting with the federal government to detain immigrants. AB 450 included a provision requiring employers to notify employees about immigration inspections.
The U.S. Department of Justice did not respond to the ruling. The government could seek en banc review from an 11-member panel of 9th Circuit judges or petition the Supreme Court of the United States for review.

North Carolina governor taps two for state court of appeals

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) appointed Reuben Young and Christopher Brook to fill two vacancies on the 15-member state Court of Appeals. Young and Brook are both registered with the Democratic Party.
The North Carolina Court of Appeals is the intermediate appellate court in North Carolina. The court has 15 judges who hear cases in panels of three. Judges are selected in partisan elections to serve eight-year terms. These elections were nonpartisan from 2004 until a law passed in 2016 made them partisan again, beginning in 2018.
Of the 15 judges, the breakdown of partisanship is as follows after the new appointments:
  • Appointed by Democratic governor: 5
  • Appointed by Republican governor: 2
  • Elected Democrats: 3
  • Elected Republicans: 5
Thus, the overall balance on the Court of Appeals following these appointments is 8-7 with eight judges having been either elected as Democrats or appointed by a Democratic governor.
The justices already on the court prior to Gov. Cooper’s appointments are:
  • Linda McGee – Initially appointed by Gov. Jim Hunt (D)
  • Wanda Bryant – Initially appointed by Gov. Mike Easley (D)
  • John Arrowood – Initially appointed by Gov. Roy Cooper (D)
  • Richard Dietz – Initially appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory (R)
  • Valerie Johnson Zachary – Initially appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory (R)
  • Donna Stroud – Elected (R)
  • Hunter Murphy – Elected (R)
  • John Marsh Tyson – Elected (R)
  • Chris Dillon – Elected (R)
  • Phil Berger, Jr. – Elected (R)
  • Lucy Inman – Elected (D)
  • Tony Hampson – Elected (D)
  • Allegra Collins – Elected (D)
Young and Brook must run for election in 2020 to remain on the bench. Bryant, McGee, and Dillon are also up for election in 2020.
Young was the chief deputy secretary for adult corrections and juvenile justice from 2017 to 2019. Before that, he was a special superior court judge for the North Carolina Superior Courts from 2012 to 2017. Gov. Bev Perdue (D) appointed him to that position on December 31, 2012. Young also worked for the state’s Department of Justice and for Gov. Mike Easley as chief legal counsel. He received his undergraduate degree from Howard University and his J.D. from the North Carolina Central University School of Law.
Brook was the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Carolina from 2012 to 2019. He worked as an attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice from 2008 to 2012. From 2005 to 2008, Brook was an attorney in private practice. He received his undergraduate degree and J.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. While in law school, Brook was a legal intern at the UNC Center for Civil Rights, director of the Carolina Law Pro Bono Program, and managing editor of the North Carolina Journal of International Law and Commercial Regulation.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) will have the chance to fill two state supreme court seats

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) will have the chance to appoint two new justices to the nine-member state supreme court. Justice Patrick Wyrick vacated his seat on April 10, 2019, when he was nominated to serve on the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. Justice John Reif announced in March that he would retire on April 30, 2019.
Under Oklahoma state law, the governor appoints a justice to the court based on a list of names submitted by the Oklahoma Judicial Nominating Commission.
The nominations will be Stitt’s first two appointments to the court and will immediately shift the balance of the court from a 6-3 majority of justices appointed by Democratic governors to a 5-4 majority of justices appointed by Democratic governors.
Stitt’s appointments will serve until the next general election in 2020. They will then be on the ballot for retention with current justices Tom Colbert (appointed by a Democrat) and Richard Darby (appointed by a Republican) in a set of elections that could further change the makeup of the court.
The court’s makeup before the two vacancies was:
  • John Reif (retiring) – appointed by Gov. Brad Henry (D)
  • Tom Colbert – appointed by Gov. Brad Henry (D)
  • James Edmondson – appointed by Gov. Brad Henry (D)
  • Noma Gurich – appointed by Gov. Brad Henry (D)
  • Douglas Combs – appointed by Gov. Brad Henry (D)
  • Yvonne Kauger – appointed by Gov. George Nigh (D)
  • James Winchester – appointed by Gov. Frank Keating (R)
  • Patrick Wyrick (vacant) – appointed by Gov. Mary Fallin (R)
  • Richard Darby – appointed by Gov. Mary Fallin (R)
Justices on the court represent single judicial districts and serve six-year terms. The appointed justice must come from the appropriate supreme court judicial district. If the governor does not appoint a replacement within 60 days, the chief justice is responsible for selecting a successor.
The Oklahoma Supreme court is one of two courts of last resort in Oklahoma. The supreme court is the court of last resort for civil matters and the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals decides all criminal matters. Texas also has two courts of last resort. A court of last resort is the highest judicial body within a jurisdiction’s court system.
The Oklahoma Judicial Nominating Commission consists of 15 members: six lawyers elected by the Oklahoma Bar Association, six non-lawyers appointed by the governor, and three additional non-lawyers, who serve as at-large members. The state Senate president pro tempore and the state House speaker each choose one at-large member. A majority of commission members selects the third at-large member. Lawyers and non-lawyers serve six-year staggered terms. The at-large members serve for two years.

Trump renominates 12 federal judicial nominees

On April 8, President Donald Trump (R) announced his intent to renominate 12 federal judicial nominees to U.S. District Courts. The nominees had been returned to the president on January 3, 2019, at the sine die adjournment of the 115th Congress.
At the 115th Congress’ adjournment, 31 nominees were awaiting a full Senate vote, 24 were awaiting a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee, and 16 were awaiting a committee hearing. The president has renominated 68 of the 71 returned nominees. Trump has not re-submitted three names: Thomas Farr, Gordon Giampietro, and John O’Connor.
Since January 2017, the Senate has confirmed 95 of President Trump’s judicial nominees—56 district court judges, 37 appeals court judges, and two Supreme Court justices.
The president has announced 179 Article III judicial nominations since taking office on Jan. 20, 2017. The president named 69 judicial nominees in 2017 and 92 in 2018.

Arkansas governor appoints judge to state Court of Appeals

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) appointed Meredith Blaise Switzer as the District 4, Position 2, judge on the Arkansas Court of Appeals. Switzer succeeds Judge David “Mac” Glover, who died on March 23, 2019. Switzer will serve until December 31, 2020.
A new judge will be elected to the position in 2020. Under Arkansas law, appointed judges are prohibited from running to succeed themselves in the next election.
District 4 is composed of Clark, Garland, Hempstead, Hot Spring, Howard, Little River, Logan, Miller, Montgomery, Pike, Polk, Scott, Sebastian, Sevier, and Yell counties.
Switzer obtained an undergraduate degree from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville in 2001. She received a J.D. with honors from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) Law School in 2004. During her legal studies, Switzer served as executive editor of the UALR Law Review.
From January 2019 to April 2019, Switzer was the chief legal counsel of Quapaw House, Inc. She was a district judge in Garland County from 2016 to 2018. Hutchinson appointed Switzer to this position in December 2016, to succeed her father, David B. Switzer. She served in this position until 2018, when she was prohibited from running to succeed herself.
The Arkansas Court of Appeals is the intermediate appellate court in Arkansas–in other words, the Court of Appeals is the second-highest state court in Arkansas. It is composed of 12 judges elected in nonpartisan elections from seven appellate court districts to serve renewable eight-year terms. The court is located in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Courts of appeal serve as an intermediate step between the trial courts and the courts of last resort (usually the state supreme court) in a state. There are 972 intermediate appellate court judgeships nationwide.
Of the 19 states with popularly elected appeals court judges, only Arkansas and Louisiana outright prohibit interim judges from seeking a full term. Interim judges in Pennsylvania are traditionally expected to not seek full terms.

Senate confirms two nominees to U.S. District Court judgeships

The U.S. Senate confirmed two nominees to U.S. District Courts on April 9, 2019.
Daniel Domenico, nominee to the District of Colorado, was confirmed by a 57-42 vote. Four Democratic senators–Michael Bennet (Colo.), Doug Jones (Ala.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.)–voted with all Senate Republicans to confirm Domenico. When Domenico receives his commission, he will be the first judge nominated by Trump to join the seven-member court. He will join two judges nominated by President George W. Bush (R) and three judges nominated by President Barack Obama (D). The court will have one vacant seat.
Patrick Wyrick, nominee to the Western District of Oklahoma, was confirmed by a 53-47 vote along party lines. Wyrick will join two other judges nominated by Trump and two judges nominated by George W. Bush on the seven-member court. There are two vacancies.
Domenico and Wyrick are the second and third nominees, respectively, to be confirmed to a U.S. District Court under a new precedent the Senate established last week.
On April 3, 2019, the U.S. Senate voted 51-48 in favor of a change to chamber precedent lowering the maximum time allowed for debate on executive nominees to posts below the Cabinet level and on nominees to district court judgeships from 30 hours after invoking cloture to two.
The change was passed under a procedure which requires 51 votes rather than 60 that is often referred to as the nuclear option.

South Dakota governor makes first appointment to state supreme court

Governor Kristi Noem (R) appointed Patricia DeVaney to the South Dakota Supreme Court on April 4, 2019. Noem selected DeVaney to succeed Justice Steven Zinter, who died on October 30, 2018. DeVaney was Noem’s first appointment to the five-member court.
Under South Dakota law, state supreme court justices are appointed by the governor from a list provided by the South Dakota Judicial Qualifications Commission. The South Dakota Judicial Qualifications Commission is composed of seven members—two circuit court judges elected by judicial conference, three attorneys appointed by a majority of the state bar, and two citizens appointed by the governor. The attorneys must not all be from the same political party. Likewise, the governor cannot appoint individuals to the commission from the same political party.
Newly appointed justices serve for at least three years, after which they must run in a yes-no retention election during a regularly scheduled general election. Subsequent terms last eight years.
DeVaney graduated summa cum laude from the University of South Dakota in 1990. She earned her J.D. from the University of Virginia. DeVaney worked as an assistant attorney general in the Attorney General’s Office from 1993 to 2012. Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R) appointed DeVaney to the Sixth Judicial Circuit of South Dakota in 2012.

Oregon Secretary of State sworn in to office

On April 3, Bev Clarno (R) took the official oath of office to become Oregon’s secretary of state. Gov. Kate Brown (D) appointed Clarno as the secretary of state on March 29, 2019. Clarno was appointed to replace Dennis Richardson (R), who died while in office on February 26, 2019.
In a statement on February 27, 2019, Gov. Kate Brown (D) said she would appoint a successor from the Republican Party–as the Oregon Constitution requires–who would commit not to run for election in 2020. Clarno will serve for the remainder of Richardson’s term, which expires in 2021. Clarno indicated that she would not run for election in 2020.
Clarno is a former Republican member of the Oregon House of Representatives (1989-1997) and the Oregon State Senate (2001-2003). She served as speaker of the House from 1995 to 1997 and as Senate Republican leader in the 2003 legislative session. Clarno was a hog farmer, cattle rancher, and real estate broker and appraiser before her election to the Oregon House of Representatives
The Secretary of State of Oregon is an elected constitutional officer within the executive branch of the Oregon state government and is first in line of succession to the governor.
The secretary of state is a state-level position in 47 of the 50 states. The position does not exist in Alaska, Hawaii, and Utah. There are currently 25 Republican secretaries of state, 21 Democratic secretaries of state, and one independent.

Senate confirms 9th Circuit Court nominee

The U.S. Senate confirmed Bridget Bade to be a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. The vote on Tuesday was bipartisan, with 53 Republican senators, 24 Democratic senators, and Independent Angus King voting in favor. Home-state Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D) and Martha McSally (R) of Arizona both voted to confirm Bade. The overall vote was 78-21 (with 1 abstaining).
The United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit is one of 13 U.S. courts of appeal. They are the intermediate appellate courts of the United States federal courts. On August 27, 2018, President Donald Trump (R) nominated Bade to a seat on this court. She will join the court upon receiving her judicial commission and taking her judicial oath. Bade will be the fourth Trump nominee to join the 29-member court. She is the 37th appeals court judge to be confirmed under President Donald Trump.
Before Bade’s confirmation, the court had 24 members–16 appointed by a Democratic president and eight appointed by a Republican president. There were five vacant seats. Bade’s confirmation leaves four vacant seats.
Four nominees for the vacant seats are awaiting action from the Senate Judiciary Committee. Daniel Bress and Patrick Bumatay are awaiting a hearing before the committee. Daniel Collins and Kenneth Kiyul Lee are awaiting a committee vote.
The Senate has confirmed 92 of President Trump’s judicial nominees—53 district court judges, 37 appeals court judges, and two Supreme Court justices—since January 2017.