California governor appoints Jenkins as first nominee to state supreme court

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) appointed Martin Jenkins to the California Supreme Court on October 5, 2020. Pending confirmation by the state Commission on Judicial Appointments, Jenkins will succeed Justice Ming Chin, who retired on August 31, 2020. Jenkins is Newsom’s first nominee to the seven-member supreme court.

Under California law, state supreme court justices are recommended by the Commission on Judicial Nominee Evaluation to the governor. The governor then selects the new justice, who must be confirmed by the state Commission on Judicial Appointments.

Jenkins was an associate judge on the California First District Court of Appeal, Division Three, from 2008 to 2019. He was appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R). He stepped down in 2019 after Gov. Newsom appointed Jenkins as judicial appointments secretary.

From 1997 to 2008, Jenkins was a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. President Bill Clinton (D) nominated Jenkins on July 24, 1997, to a seat vacated by Eugene Lynch. The U.S. Senate confirmed Jenkins on November 9, 1997, and he received commission on November 12. Jenkins served on the Northern District of California until his resignation on April 3, 2008.

Jenkins earned his A.A. from the City College of San Francisco in 1973, his B.A. from Santa Clara University (formerly the University of Santa Clara) in 1976, and his J.D. from the University of San Francisco School of Law in 1980.

A press release from Gov. Newsom’s office said Jenkins “would be the first openly gay California Supreme Court justice and only the third African American man ever to serve on the state’s highest court. It has been 29 years since an African American man has served on the California Supreme Court.”

The California Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort. As of October 2020, four judges on the court were appointed by Democratic governors and two judges were appointed by Republican governors.

In 2020, there have been 21 supreme court vacancies in 16 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. One vacancy occurred when a chief justice died, and 20 vacancies were caused by retirements.

Additional reading:

President Trump announces judicial nominee

On October 1, President Donald Trump (R) announced the nomination of Joseph Dawson to the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, which is an Article III federal judicial position. Article III judges are appointed by the president, confirmed by the Senate, and serve for life.

Since assuming office in January 2017, Trump has nominated 271 individuals to federal judgeships, 218 of whom have been confirmed. The president nominated 69 judicial nominees in 2017, 92 in 2018, and 77 in 2019.

Since January 2017, the Senate has confirmed 218 of Trump’s judicial nominees—161 district court judges, 53 appeals court judges, two Court of International Trade judges, and two Supreme Court justices.

Additional reading:

Four temporary city council members selected in Toledo, Ohio 

On Sept. 18, Lucas County Probate Judge Jack Puffenberger selected John Hobbs III, Vanice Williams, Tiffany Preston Whitman, and Cerssandra McPherson to fill vacancies on the Toledo City Council. Each will hold their position in a temporary capacity while legal proceedings continue for four previous council members.

On July 21, council members Tyrone Riley, Yvonne Harper, Larry Sykes, and Gary Johnson were suspended from office after being charged with bribery, extortion, and conspiracy. According to an FBI investigation, the four members are alleged to have accepted $34,000 in bribes in return for votes on zoning requests. All four voluntarily stepped down from their council positions in July.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost (R) stated: “Until allegations of public corruption are resolved in court, a suspension is the proper remedy to balance the accused’s right of a presumption of innocence with the public’s interest to have a functioning city council.”

Hobbs, Williams, Whitman, and McPherson assumed office on Sept. 22. Though the position is non-partisan, the Toledo Blade identified all four as Democrats. Each council member will hold their position in a temporary capacity until their predecessor’s term ends or until the suspended council member resigns or is found innocent.

Additional reading:

President Trump announces nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to Supreme Court

Image of the front of the United States Supreme Court building.

President Trump (R) announced his nomination of appellate judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court Saturday to fill the vacancy opened by the death of Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Barrett is currently a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, the federal appellate court with jurisdiction over Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin, where she has served since 2017. Her earlier legal experience includes 15 years on the faculty of Notre Dame Law School and a clerkship with then-Associate Justice Antonin Scalia. President Trump considered Barrett to fill the vacancy opened by Anthony Kennedy’s 2018 retirement before nominating Brett Kavanaugh for the spot.

In announcing Barrett’s nomination, President Trump said, “She is a woman of unparalleled achievement, towering intellect, sterling credentials and unyielding loyalty to the Constitution.”

Barrett said in reaction to her nomination, “This evening, I also want to acknowledge you, my fellow Americans. The president has nominated me to serve on the United States Supreme Court, and that institution belongs to all of us. If confirmed, I would not assume that role for the sake of those in my own circle and certainly not of my own sake. I would assume this role to serve you, I would discharge the judicial oath, which requires me to administer justice without respect to persons, do equal right to the poor and rich, and faithfully and impartially discharge my duties under the United States constitution.”

The vacancy was opened by the death of Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Sept. 18. Ginsburg, 87, died of complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer. She was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton (D) in 1993 to fill the vacancy opened by Byron White’s retirement. At the time of her death, Ginsburg was among four members of the nine-member court appointed by a Democratic president.

Barrett is President Trump’s third appointment to the court. He earlier appointed Neil Gorsuch to fill the vacancy caused by Antonin Scalia’s death in 2016 and Brett Kavanaugh to fill the vacancy caused by Anthony Kennedy’s retirement in 2018.

Barrett’s nomination will advance to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will conduct an investigation involving background checks, one-on-one interviews with committee members, and a final confirmation hearing. Should the committee approve of Barrett’s nomination, she will advance to a vote before the full Senate. Recent nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court have been confirmed by narrow margins. Neil Gorsuch won confirmation by a 54-45 vote, while Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed by a 50-48 vote.

Additional reading:

Office of Personnel Management proposes to reclassify ALJs within civil service

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) on September 21 issued a proposed rule that would reclassify administrative law judges (ALJ) within the federal civil service. The proposed rule aims to implement President Donald Trump’s (R) Executive Order 13843 of July 2018, which moved ALJs from the competitive service to the excepted service.

Prior to E.O. 13843, OPM screened ALJ candidates through a merit-based selection process as part of the competitive service. Agencies could only hire ALJs from OPM’s pool of vetted candidates.

President Trump issued E.O. 13843 in response to the United States Supreme Court’s June 2018 decision in _Lucia v. SEC_, which held that ALJs are officers of the United States who must be appointed by the president, the courts, or agency heads rather than hired by agency staff. The reclassification of ALJs as members of the excepted service allows agency heads to directly appoint ALJs and select candidates who meet specific agency qualifications, according to the order.

Opponents of Trump’s executive order have argued that moving ALJs outside of the competitive service threatens their impartiality by allowing partisan agency heads to appoint ALJs based on their own standards.

The proposed rule from OPM requires that agency heads appoint new ALJs to positions within the excepted service. The proposed rule also clarifies that certain protections aimed at ensuring the independence of ALJs remain intact, such as the prohibition against agencies subjecting ALJs to performance reviews and the role of the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) in overseeing ALJ discipline. The proposed rule is open to public comments through November 20, 2020.

Additional reading:
Presidential Executive Order 13843 (Donald Trump, 2018)
Lucia v. SEC
Civil service
Comment period

DeSantis appoints judge, attorney to Florida Court of Appeals

On July 29, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R ) filled two vacancies on the Florida Second District Court of Appeal. The court is one of five intermediate appellate courts in Florida. Intermediate appellate courts serve as an intermediate step between the trial courts and the courts of last resort in a state. The Florida District Courts of Appeal were established in 1957 to relieve the case docket of the Florida Supreme Court.

John K. Stargel fills the vacancy created by the resignation of former judge Samuel Salario, who resigned from the court on June 4, 2020, to take a job in the investment industry. Prior to joining the appellate court, he was a judge on Florida’s Tenth Judicial Circuit Court.

Suzanne Labrit, who has worked in private law practice for over two decades, fills the vacancy created by the elevation of Judge John Badalamenti to the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida. Both judges must stand for retention election in 2022 in order to serve full six-year terms on the court.

Judicial positions in Florida are nonpartisan. Of the 16 judges currently sitting on the Florida Second District Court of Appeal, two were appointed by a Democratic governor and 14 were appointed by a Republican governor. Of the 48 judgeships across the other four district appellate courts, only one sitting judge was appointed by a Democratic governor. The rest were appointed by a Republican governor.

Additional reading:

Lujan appointed to New Mexico House of Representatives

The Santa Fe County Commission appointed Tara Lujan (D) to the New Mexico House of Representatives on July 23. Lujan fills the District 48 seat vacated by Linda Trujillo (D) on July 9, when Trujillo resigned in order to focus on full-time work due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Lujan will serve in the New Mexico legislature until the end of the year. Since Trujillo was running for re-election when she resigned, the Democratic Central Committee in Santa Fe County will also select a replacement candidate for the November 3 ballot. Before she resigned, Trujillo advanced unopposed from the June 2 primary election. No candidates from other parties may be nominated to the November ballot, as no candidates from other parties filed to run in the district before the filing deadline passed.

New Mexico has a Democratic state government trifecta. In the November 2018 elections, the New Mexico House of Representatives’ Democratic majority increased from 38-31 (with one vacancy) to 46-24. All 70 seats in the chamber are up for election this year.

Additional reading:

O’Hearn appointed to Wyoming House of Representatives

Natrona County commissioners appointed Kevin O’Hearn (R) to the Wyoming House of Representatives on July 28 to fill the seat vacated when Carl “Bunky” Loucks (R) resigned in early July. O’Hearn was sworn into office on July 30. He will represent District 59 in the chamber for the remainder of Loucks’ unexpired term, which is set to end on January 3, 2021.

O’Hearn’s professional experience includes working as the building inspector and assistant town manager for Mills, Wyoming. Several commissioners cited his tenure in local government as their motivation for the appointment.

O’Hearn had already filed to run for Loucks’ seat this year and will face David Carpenter and Leah Juarez in the Republican primary on August 18. Loucks, who did not file to run for re-election, said he resigned to focus on running his business. No candidates filed to run in the district’s Democratic primary.

In 40 of the 60 races for the Wyoming House of Representatives occurring this year, no candidates filed in the Democratic primary. No candidates filed for the Republican primary in just five of the 60 districts.

Additional reading:

Indianapolis city-county councilmember Johnson appointed to Indiana House of Representatives

Marion County Democratic committee members appointed Blake Johnson (D) to represent District 100 in the state House of Representatives on Saturday, June 27. Johnson replaces former Representative Dan Forestal (D), who resigned on June 15 following the second of two arrests he experienced in 2019 and 2020.

Johnson served as a city-county councillor in Indianapolis up until his appointment to the state legislature. He filed to run for the 100th District seat and advanced from the Democratic primary on June 2, defeating Clif Marsiglio with 74.7% of the vote. Johnson will face Republican Wayne Harmon in the general election on November 3.

Heading into this year’s elections, there were eight open seats in the Indiana House of Representatives where the incumbent did not file to run for re-election. Forestal’s seat in District 100 was one of them. Only one incumbent, Republican Dollyene Sherman, was defeated in the state’s June 2 primaries. The election years 2018, 2016, and 2014 also each saw one incumbent defeated. As of June 25, 51 incumbents (16 Democrats and 35 Republicans) have been defeated in state legislative primaries this year.

Additional reading:

Crabtree replaces Youngberg in the South Dakota

Gov. Kristi Noem (R) appointed Casey Crabtree (R) to the South Dakota State Senate on June 19, one day after Jordan Youngberg (R) resigned to take a full-time position with the South Dakota State Treasurer’s office. Crabtree’s appointment to represent District 8 was effective immediately.

Crabtree will serve the remainder of Youngberg’s unexpired term, which ends on January 11, 2021. At the time of his appointment, Crabtree had already declared his candidacy for the District 8 seat. He is running unopposed in the Nov. 3 general election.

86 of 99 state legislative chambers nationwide are holding elections in 2020, including both chambers of the South Dakota State Legislature. Heading into the 2020 elections, Republicans hold a majority 61 chambers compared to Democrats’ 37. In the Alaska House, there is a power-sharing agreement between the parties as part of a coalition.

Republicans hold a supermajority in the South Dakota State Senate and the South Dakota House of Representatives, as well as a Republican state government trifecta.

Additional reading: