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Colorado recall election moves forward

In Colorado, the Idaho Springs City Council has voted to schedule the recall election against Mayor Mike Hillman on April 7. The deadline for candidates to file to run against Hillman is February 3.

The recall effort, organized by residents Amanda Kowalewski, Janet Diederichs, and Candace Voisard, was initiated in November 2019. Recall petitions included the following language explaining the allegations against Hillman:

  • “Significant erosion of public confidence in city government during Hillman’s administration;
  • Failure to adequately supervise planning staff, and, by failing to do so, allowing decisions to be made at staff level without public input or review that profoundly impact the property rights and quality of life of Idaho Springs residents; and
  • Allowing unresolved conflicts of interest by City Council members to occur.”

Hillman responded to the recall effort, saying the petitioners were unhappy with residential development in Idaho Springs. He added, “I have poured out my life for the job. They are trying to bring down the (city) council and trying to bring me down. They are trying to break down our community.”

The number of valid signatures required to force a recall election is 25 percent of the votes cast in the last election for the official being recalled. Petitioners were required to submit 77 valid signatures to put the recall on the ballot. There were 150 signatures submitted for verification on December 6. On January 13, after the signatures were verified, the Idaho Springs City Council voted to have the recall election take place on April 7.

In 2019, Ballotpedia covered a total of 151 recall efforts against 230 elected officials. Of the 66 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 34 were recalled for a rate of 52%. That was lower than the 63% rate and 57% rate for 2018 and 2017 recalls, respectively.

Click here to learn more.

Additional reading:
Laws governing recall in Colorado
Political recall efforts, 2020



No seats flip party control in first round of 2020 state legislative specials

Connecticut, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania held the first state legislative special general elections of the year on January 14. On the ballot were Connecticut House Districts 48 and 132, Kentucky Senate District 38, and Pennsylvania Senate District 48. All four seats became vacant in September or November 2019. No seats changed party control as a result of the special elections.

Connecticut House District 48 was the only seat up for general election that was previously held by a Democratic officeholder. Rep. Linda Orange (D) passed away on November 20, 2019. Democratic candidate Brian Smith was elected as her replacement, receiving 52.3% of the vote. Republican Brian Farnen won election to Connecticut House District 132 with 50.8% of the vote. He replaces Brenda Kupchick (R), who resigned on November 25, 2019, following her election as Fairfield First Selectman.

In Kentucky, Mike Nemes (R) was elected to Senate District 38 with 63.6% of the vote. His predecessor, Dan Seum (R), resigned his seat on November 16, 2019.

Republican David Arnold won election to Pennsylvania State Senate District 48 with 64.7% of the vote. The seat became vacant after Mike Folmer (R) resigned on September 18, 2019.

Two special primaries were also held on January 14. A Democratic primary was on the ballot for Arkansas House of Representatives District 34, a seat previously held by John Walker (D). The race advanced to a primary runoff on February 11. Minnesota House of Representatives District 30A, previously held by Nick Zerwas (R), held Democratic and Republican primaries. The general election is scheduled for February 4.

As of January 2020, 27 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2020 in 13 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.

Click here to learn more.

Additional reading:
Connecticut state legislative special elections, 2020
Kentucky state legislative special elections, 2020
Pennsylvania state legislative special elections, 2020



Maryland filing deadline is January 24

The major-party filing deadline to run for elected office in Maryland is on January 24, 2020. In Maryland, prospective candidates may file for the following offices:

U.S. House (8 seats)
Maryland Court of Appeals (2 seats)
Maryland Court of Special Appeals (5 seats)

The primary is scheduled for April 28, and the general election is scheduled for November 3, 2020.

Maryland’s statewide filing deadline is the 10th to take place in the 2020 election cycle. The next statewide filing deadline is on January 25 in West Virginia.

Maryland has a divided government, and no political party holds a state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.

Click here to learn more.

Additional reading:
United States House of Representatives elections in Maryland, 2020
Maryland Court of Appeals
Maryland Court of Special Appeals
Signature requirements and deadlines for 2020 U.S. Congress elections



Federal Register weekly update; 2020 page total exceeds 2019 and 2018

The Federal Register is a daily journal of federal government activity that includes presidential documents, proposed and final rules, and public notices. It is a common measure of an administration’s regulatory activity.

From January 13 to January 17, the Federal Register grew to 3,228 pages. Over the same period in 2019 and 2018, the Federal Register grew to 194 pages and 2,884 pages, respectively. As of January 10, the 2020 total led the 2019 total by 3,034 pages and the 2018 total by 344 pages.

According to government data, the Federal Register hit an all-time high of 95,894 pages in 2016.

This week’s Federal Register featured the following 493 documents:
• 384 notices
• one presidential document
• 42 proposed rules
• 66 final rules

One proposed rule and two final rules were deemed significant under E.O. 12866—meaning that they could have large impacts on the economy, environment, public health, or state or local governments. Significant actions may also conflict with presidential priorities or other agency rules.

Ballotpedia maintains page counts and other information about the Federal Register as part of its Administrative State Project. The project is a neutral, nonpartisan encyclopedic resource that defines and analyzes the administrative state, including its philosophical origins, legal and judicial precedents, and scholarly examinations of its consequences. The project also monitors and reports on measures of federal government activity.

Click here to find more information about weekly additions to the Federal Register in 2018 and 2017.

Additional reading:
Click here to find yearly information about additions to the Federal Register from 1936 to 2016.



Evans resigns from Washington D.C., city council

Washington D.C., City Council Member Jack Evans (D) resigned on January 17, 2020, after serving on the council for 30 years. Evans’ resignation came after the council spent a year investigating Evans and reprimanding him for possible ethical violations stemming from his work as an attorney.

On December 10, 2019, the city council approved a report that recommended Evans be expelled from the council. A vote to expel Evans had been set for January 21.

A special election will be held to replace Evans on the council on June 16, 2020. The primary for this special election will be held on June 2, 2020.

Click here to learn more.



New campaign finance reports in for 2020 Colorado ballot measures show support campaigns ahead in fundraising

New campaign finance reports for Colorado ballot measures, which covered information through December 31, 2019, show support campaigns had raised more money than opposition campaigns.

So far, four measures are certified to appear on the November 2020 ballot in Colorado, including one legislatively referred bond issue, a veto referendum, and two citizen initiatives. No issue committees have registered to support or oppose the bond issue.

Citizen Requirement for Voting Initiative:
The initiative would amend the Colorado Constitution to state that “only a citizen” of the U.S. can vote in Colorado. The existing language says “every citizen” of the U.S. can vote. Current Colorado law requires U.S. citizenship to register to vote.

This measure is supported by Citizen Voters, Inc., a Florida-based not-for-profit organization founded by John Loudon that supports similar measures to amend state constitutions nationwide. Amendments to change constitutional language to explicitly require voters to be U.S. citizens are also on the 2020 ballot in Alabama and Florida.

Colorado Citizen Voters is the issue committee supporting the measure in Colorado. The committee reported $36,000 in cash contributions and $1.43 million in in-kind contributions. Citizen Voters, Inc. contributed 99.25% of the total contributions to the committee. The committee reported in $28,507 in cash expenditures.

There are no committees registered to oppose the initiative.

Gray Wolf Reintroduction Initiative:
The initiative would require the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission to create a plan to reintroduce and manage gray wolves on designated lands west of the continental divide by the end of 2023.

One committee is registered to support the initiative: Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund (RMWAF). The committee reported $1.35 million in contributions and $1.32 million in expenditures. The top donor to the RMWAF, with contributions totaling $333,650, was the Tides Center, which describes itself as “a philanthropic partner and nonprofit accelerator dedicated to building a world of shared prosperity and social justice.”

Two committees are registered to oppose the initiative: Coloradans Defending Our Wildlife and Coloradans Protecting Wildlife. Coloradans Defending Our Wildlife had not yet reported campaign finance activity. Coloradans Protecting Wildlife reported $10,125 in cash contributions and $66.50 in cash expenditures. The top donor to the opposition campaign was the Colorado Farm Bureau, which gave $3,500.

National Popular Vote Referendum:
The referendum, if approved, would make Colorado part of the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) and give all of Colorado’s nine electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes nationwide if the NPVIC becomes effective.

Two committees are registered to support a yes vote on the referendum: Coloradans for National Popular Vote and Yes on National Popular Vote. Together, the committees reported $1.89 million in contributions and $454,436 in expenditures. The top donor to the support campaign was Stephen Silberstein, a member of the board of directors of the nonprofit National Popular Vote., who gave $500,000.

One committee registered to support a no vote on the referendum: Protect Colorado’s Vote. The committee reported $802,219 in contributions and $738,598 in expenditures. The top donor to the opposition campaign was the Better Jobs Coalition, which gave $105,000.

In 2018, Colorado was the #6 state with the most campaign finance activity reported for state ballot measure campaigns. Thirteen measures were on the ballot in Colorado in 2018. Combined, support and opposition campaigns spent $70 million supporting and opposing the 13 measures. The #1 state was California, with $363 million spent supporting and opposing 16 measures.

A total of 108 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Colorado during the 20-year period from 1999 through 2019. From 1999 through 2019, about 42% (45 of 108) of the total number of measures that appeared on the statewide ballot were approved, and about 58% (63 of 108) were defeated.

Additional Reading:
Colorado 2020 ballot measures
Ballot measure campaign finance, 2018



Davis Appointed to Louisiana State Board of Education

Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) appointed Louisiana State University professor Belinda Davis to the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education effective January 13, 2020. Davis fills the at-large seat formerly held by Lurie Thomason, who resigned in December 2019 for health-related reasons.

Davis ran unsuccessfully for the 70th District seat in the Louisiana House of Representatives in 2019 and the East Baton Rouge Parish school board in 2014. She holds a master’s and a Ph.D. in political science from Florida State University and specializes in public policy.

The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has 11 members—eight members elected by district and three appointed at-large. At the time of Davis’ appointment, the partisan split of the elected members was six Republicans and two Democrats. The at-large seats are non-partisan, though Davis ran for the Louisiana House as a Democrat.

Davis’ appointment comes after Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White’s announcement that he plans to resign in March 2020. The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is tasked with appointing the Superintendent.

Click here to learn more.

Additional reading:
Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Louisiana Superintendent of Education
Lurie Thomason



Mississippi Executive Director of Environmental Quality Resigns

The former Executive Director of Mississippi’s Department of Environmental Quality, Gary Rikard, resigned from his position on January 13, 2020. Newly elected Gov. Tate Reeves (R) was sworn in the following day.

Rikard served as director of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality since 2014 after former Gov. Phil Bryant (R) appointed him to the position in July of that year. Rikard is an attorney and had previously worked in the department as an attorney and environmental engineer.

Rikard is one of several Mississippi state executives to step down as part of the transition to the new gubernatorial administration. At the time of Rikard’s resignation, his replacement had not yet been announced.

Click here to learn more.

Additional reading:
Mississippi Executive Director of Environmental Quality
Energy policy in Mississippi
Tate Reeves



Former Rep. Michaux Appointed to North Carolina State Senate

On January 13, 2020, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) appointed former state Rep. Henry “Mickey” Michaux, Jr. (D) to represent District 20 in the state Senate. Michaux had retired from the North Carolina House of Representatives in 2018. He was nominated by Durham County Democrats for the vacancy.

Former Sen. Floyd McKissick, Jr. (D) resigned the 20th District seat before joining the North Carolina Utilities Commission the week before. The News & Observer reported that Michaux expects Cooper to appoint the winner of the seat’s Democratic primary in March to take his place.

The partisan composition of the North Carolina State Senate is 29 Republicans and 21 Democrats. The Republican party also has a majority in the state House with 65 Republican seats to 55 Democratic ones.

Click here to learn more.

Additional reading:
North Carolina Senate elections, 2020
North Carolina House of Representatives elections, 2020



Bold Justice: Trump’s 3-year anniversary

 

Ballotpedia's Bold Justice

Welcome to the January 20 edition of Bold Justice, Ballotpedia’s newsletter about the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) and other judicial happenings around the U.S. Today marks the three-year anniversary of President Trump’s inauguration. Keep up with his federal judicial nominations, confirmations, and more in each edition of this newsletter. Today starts Ballotpedia’s membership drive. You can support products like Bold Justice by joining The Ballotpedia Society. Click here to learn more.


Arguments

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in three cases this week. Click here to read more about SCOTUS’ current term.

In its October 2018 term, SCOTUS heard arguments in 69 cases. Click here to read more about SCOTUS’ previous term.

Click the links below to read more about the specific cases SCOTUS will hear this week:

  • January 21

    • In Shular v. United States, Eddie Shular pleaded guilty to charges of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and possession of controlled substances. Shular was classified as an armed career criminal because of six previous drug convictions in Florida. He objected to the classification in court, arguing his previous convictions were not “serious drug offenses” under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA). The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida overruled the objection and sentenced Shular to concurrent terms of 15 years in prison on each count. On appeal, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s ruling.

      Shular appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing the 11th Circuit was wrong not to have used a categorical approach to interpret “serious drug offenses” under the ACCA and pointed to a circuit split regarding the determination of serious drug offenses under the ACCA.

      Taylor v. United States (1990) required courts to use a categorical approach when applying enhanced sentences by “looking only to the statutory definitions of the prior offenses, and not to the particular facts underlying those convictions.” Taylor says courts using a categorical approach must look at the modern generic definition of an offense and then decide if the conviction in question applies to the definition.

      The issue: Whether the determination of a “serious drug offense” under the ACCA requires the same categorical approach used in the determination of a “violent felony” under the Act?

    • In GE Energy Power Conversion France SAS v. Outokumpu Stainless USA LLC, Outokumpu Stainless USA LLC (“Outokumpu”) contracted with Fives St. Corp. (“Fives”) to provide equipment for its steel plant in Alabama. Fives subcontracted with GE Energy Power Conversion France SAS (“GE Energy”), a foreign corporation, to supply the equipment. The contracts between Outokumpu and Fives and between Fives and GE Energy contained arbitration clauses.

      The equipment was installed between 2011 and 2012 but failed by 2015. Outokumpu sued GE Energy in Alabama state court. The case was moved to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama, which dismissed the case and compelled Outokumpu to undertake arbitration proceedings.

      On appeal, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s decision to compel arbitration. GE Energy appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court for review, arguing the 11th Circuit’s decision underlined a 2-to-2 circuit court split. A circuit split is where circuit courts of appeal offer different rulings on the same legal issue.

    • The issue: Whether the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (the “New York Convention”) permits a non-signatory to an arbitration agreement to compel arbitration based on the doctrine of equitable estoppel.

      According to Investopedia, the doctrine of equitable estoppel “prevents someone from arguing something contrary to a claim made or act performed by that person previously.”

  • January 22

    • In Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, a 2015 law established a tax credit for taxpayers donating to scholarship organizations for private school students. The law made the Montana Department of Revenue responsible for administering the tax credit and ensuring the credit was constitutional. To ensure compliance, the Department established Rule 1, which excluded students attending religiously-affiliated private schools from receiving scholarship funds.

    • Kendra Espinoza, Jeri Anderson, and Jaime Schaefer, the plaintiffs, challenged Rule 1 in the Montana 11th Judicial District Court, arguing that it violated their First Amendment rights. The 11th Judicial District granted summary judgment to the plaintiffs.

      On appeal, the Montana Supreme Court reversed the 11th Judicial District’s ruling. The plaintiffs appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, writing that the Montana Supreme Court’s ruling “deepened the long-standing split on whether barring religious options from student-aid programs violates the federal Religion and Equal Protection Clauses.”

      The issue: Does it violate the Religion Clause or Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution to invalidate a generally available and religiously neutral student-aid program simply because the program gives students the choice to attend religious schools?


Opinions

SCOTUS has ruled on two cases since our January 13 issue. The court has issued rulings in four cases so far this term. Thirty-two cases are still under deliberation.

Click the links below to read more about the specific cases SCOTUS ruled on since January 13:

  • January 14, 2020

    • Ritzen Group Inc. v. Jackson Masonry was argued before the court on November 13, 2019.

      The case: Ritzen Group and Jackson Masonry both claimed the other breached contract after a sale of property fell through. A lawsuit Ritzen filed against Jackson in Tennessee state court was stayed after Jackson filed for bankruptcy. Ritzen filed a motion to lift the stay, which the bankruptcy court denied. Ritzen then filed a claim against Jackson in bankruptcy court. The bankruptcy court found Ritzen, not Jackson, breached the contract. On appeal, the district court affirmed the bankruptcy court’s ruling. On appeal again, the 6th Circuit affirmed the judgments of the district court and bankruptcy court.

      The outcome: The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, ruling unanimously that a bankruptcy court’s order unreservedly denying relief from the automatic stay constitutes a final, immediately appealable order under §158(a).

      Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg delivered the opinion of the court.

    • Retirement Plan Committee of IBM v. Jander was argued before the court on November 6, 2019.The case: Larry Jander invested in IBM’s retirement plan. After IBM sold its microelectronics business at a loss and shares fell, Jander alleged the IBM retirement plan committee violated their fiduciary duty of prudence to the pensioner under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed Jander’s claim. On appeal, the 2nd Circuit reversed and remanded the case. The retirement committee petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case, arguing the 2nd Circuit “subverted [a] pleading standard” established in Fifth Third Bancorp v. Dudenhoeffer.

      The outcome: The U.S. Supreme Court vacated and remanded the case in a per curiam decision. A per curiam decision is issued collectively by the court. The authorship is not indicated. Click here for more information.

      Justices Elena Kagan and Ruth Bader Ginsburg filed a joint concurring opinion. Justice Neil Gorsuch also filed a concurring opinion.


Upcoming SCOTUS dates

Here are the upcoming dates of interest in January and February:

  • January 21:

    • SCOTUS will release orders.

    • SCOTUS will hear arguments in two cases.

  • January 22: SCOTUS will hear arguments in one case.

  • January 24: SCOTUS will conference. A conference is a private meeting of the justices.

  • January 27: SCOTUS will release orders.

  • February 21: SCOTUS will conference.



The federal judiciary under President Trump

President Donald Trump (R) was inaugurated three years ago on January 20, 2017. At the time of his inauguration, there were 108 lifetime federal judicial vacancies requiring a presidential nomination. This was the largest number of federal judicial vacancies at the beginning of a presidency since there were 111 vacancies when Bill Clinton was inaugurated in 1992. Click here for more information on the federal judiciary during Trump’s first term.

Since taking office, the president has nominated 239 individuals to federal judgeships, 187 of whom have been confirmed. The average number of judicial confirmations for the first three years of a presidency through December 31 is 99. The Senate confirmed 197 of President Jimmy Carter‘s (D) judicial nominees, the most confirmations through three years. President Theodore Roosevelt (R) had the fewest confirmed nominees — 23 — at this stage of his first term.

The chart below shows the number of Article III judicial confirmations during each president’s first term at three specific dates: December 31 of the first year, December 31 of the second year, and December 31 of the third year. It includes presidents from Theodore Roosevelt through Trump.

The table below shows the number of Senate-confirmed Article III judges, by court type, for each of the last 20 presidents at the end of their third year in office.

The Senate has confirmed 50 of President Trump’s appellate court nominees, the most on our list. President Woodrow Wilson has the fewest number of appellate confirmations with 5. The median number of appellate court confirmations is 19.

The median number of U.S. District Court confirmations is 67. The Senate confirmed 151 of  President Bill Clinton’s district court nominees, leading the list. President Theodore Roosevelt had the fewest number of district judges confirmed, with 14.


Confirmations

The Senate confirmed no new nominees since our January 13 issue.

Overall, the Senate has confirmed 187 of President Trump’s judicial nominees—133 district court judges, 50 appeals court judges, two Court of International Trade judges, and two Supreme Court justices—since January 2017.

Nominations

President Trump announced one new Article III nominees since our January 13 edition.

The president has announced 239 Article III judicial nominations since taking office January 20, 2017. The president named 69 judicial nominees in 2017, 92 in 2018, and 77 in 2019. For more information on the president’s judicial nominees, click here.

Vacancies

The federal judiciary currently has 79 vacancies. As of publication, there were 19 pending nominations.

According to the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts, an additional 12 judges have announced their intention to leave active judicial status during Trump’s first term.

For more information on judicial vacancies during Trump’s first term, click here.

Committee action

The Senate Judiciary Committee reported five new nominees out of committee since our January 13 edition.

  • Andrew Brasher, nominee for the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama

  • Stephen Vaden, nominee for the U.S. Court of International Trade

  • Matthew Schelp, nominee for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri

  • Joshua Kindred, nominee for the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska

  • Scott Rash, nominee for the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona

Do you love judicial nomination, confirmation, and vacancy information? We figured you might. Our monthly Federal Vacancy Count, published at the start of each month, monitors all the faces and places moving in, moving out, and moving on in the federal judiciary. Click here for our most current count.

Need a daily fix of judicial nomination, confirmation, and vacancy information? Click here for continuing updates on the status of all federal judicial nominees.

Or, if you prefer, we also maintain a list of individuals President Trump has nominated.


Looking ahead

Bold Justice will be back February 10 with more information on the federal judiciary.

Click here to learn more.



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