TagLocal courts

District court allows recall effort against New Mexico county commissioner to move forward

New Mexico Twelfth District Judge Manuel Arrieta ruled in favor of an effort to recall Couy Griffin (R) from his position as the District 2 representative on the Otero County Commission on April 8. If Griffin does not appeal the decision to a higher court, recall supporters will be given 90 days to collect approximately 1,661 signatures to get the recall on the ballot. 

New Mexico allows recalls at the county level for “malfeasance or misfeasance in office or violation of the oath of office by the official concerned.” Those actions must have occurred during the official’s current term of office in order for a recall effort to be approved to circulate petitions.

Recall supporters said Griffin had used the office for personal gain. Griffin said the allegations against him were baseless and politically motivated.

Griffin, who founded the organization Cowboys for Trump, was arrested in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 17, for his alleged role in the breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. He was charged with “knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority,” according to the Alamogordo Daily News. Griffin was released from federal prison on Feb. 5.

After Griffin was arrested, District 1 Commissioner Gerald Matherly (R) and District 3 Commissioner Vickie Marquardt (R) called for his resignation as did New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas (D). Griffin said he would not resign. He said he was accused of crimes but not convicted. “I just want those that have already come to the conclusion that I’m guilty, I just again ask you to put the brakes on a little bit and let the legal process take place,” Griffin said.

Griffin was elected to the three-member commission in 2018, defeating Democratic candidate Christopher S. Jones with 65% of the vote.

In 2020, Ballotpedia covered a total of 226 recall efforts against 272 elected officials. Of the 49 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 29 were recalled for a rate of 59%. That was higher than the 52% rate for 2019 recalls but lower than the 63% rate for 2018 recalls.

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U.S. Senate confirms six U.S. District Court nominees

The U.S. Senate confirmed six nominees to U.S. District Court judgeships. The 94 U.S. District Courts are the general trial courts of the United States federal courts. The Senate has confirmed 214 of President Trump’s Article III judicial nominees—two Supreme Court justices, 53 appellate court judges, 157 district court judges, and two U.S. Court of International Trade judges—since January 2017.

The confirmed nominees are:

Stephen McGlynn and David Dugan, confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. When they assume office (after receiving their judicial commission and taking their judicial oath), the court will have:
• No vacancies.
• Two Democrat-appointed judges and two Republican-appointed judges.

Stanley Blumenfeld, Mark Scarsi, and John Holcomb, confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. When they assume office, the court will have:
• Seven vacancies.
• Nine Democrat-appointed judges and 12 Republican-appointed judges.

Todd Robinson, confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California. After Robinson assumes office, the court will have:
• Four vacancies.
• Four Democrat-appointed judges and five Republican-appointed judges.

Blumenfeld, Scarsi, Holcomb, and Robinson are the first four District Court nominees to be confirmed to a California court since Trump took office.

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Wisconsin Rep. Taylor appointed to succeed Karofsky on Dane County Circuit Court

Gov. Tony Evers (D) appointed Wisconsin State Assemblymember Chris Taylor (D) to the Dane County Circuit Court on June 11, replacing Jill Karofsky, who was elected to the Wisconsin Supreme Court on April 7. Taylor said she plans to continue to serve in the state legislature until just before her swearing-in on the court August 1, which is also the day Karofsky is sworn into the state Supreme court.

Taylor was first elected to represent District 76 in the General Assembly in a 2011 special election. She did not file to run for re-election to the legislature this year.

The Dane County Circuit Court is one of 72 circuit courts, or trial courts, in Wisconsin. Judicial elections in Wisconsin are nonpartisan, though candidates often receive support from partisan organizations. Wisconsin is one of 18 states that select judges through nonpartisan elections at all trial court levels.

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Judge rules that Tennessee must provide absentee ballots to all eligible voters on request

Ellen Hobbs Lyle, a judge on the Davidson County Chancery Court in Nashville, Tennessee, ruled on June 4 that the state must give all eligible voters the option to vote by mail in upcoming elections because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision is expected to be appealed.

In Tennessee, voters can request an absentee ballot if they meet certain requirements. For example, voters who will be outside their county during the early registration period and all day on election day and voters over the age of 60 are eligible for absentee ballots.

The Secretary of State’s office has put together a coronavirus plan for upcoming elections that focuses on sanitary measures and social distancing.

Tennessee is holding a primary on August 6. The general election is scheduled for November 3. Tennessee has a Republican state trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.



Voters to decide state executive, legislative, and judicial primaries in Oregon

The statewide primary election for Oregon is on May 19, 2020. The filing deadline to run passed on March 10. Candidates are running in elections for the following offices:
• Secretary of State
• Treasurer
• Attorney General
• 16 seats in the Oregon State Senate
• All 60 seats in the Oregon House of Representatives
• Three Oregon Supreme Court justices
• Four Oregon Court of Appeals justices
• Ballotpedia is also covering local elections in Portland and Multnomah County.

Candidates are competing to advance to the general election scheduled for November 3, 2020.

Oregon exclusively uses a vote-by-mail system. Voters may return their ballots to the office of the county clerk by mail or in person. Because of this system, there is no need for explicit absentee or early voting procedures.

Oregon’s primary is the 10th statewide primary to take place in the 2020 election cycle. The next statewide primaries will be held on June 2 in the following states:
• Idaho
• Indiana
• Iowa
• Maryland
• Montana
• New Mexico
• Pennsylvania
• South Dakota

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Ducey appoints four judges to Arizona Court of Appeals and Maricopa County Superior Court

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) made four judicial appointments on April 24, becoming the governor who has made the most judicial appointments in state history. Ducey has appointed 71 judges since taking office, overtaking the previous record of 68 appointments made by former Gov. Bruce Babbitt (D). Babbitt held office from 1978 to 1987. Ducey has been in office since 2015.

Ducey appointed Cynthia Bailey to the Arizona Court of Appeals, the state’s intermediate appellate court. Bailey replaces Diane Johnsen, who retired in January.

Ducey also appointed three judges to the Maricopa County Superior Court. Marvin Davis, Suzanne Nicholls, and Michael Rassas replace Karen O’Connor, Erin O’Brien Otis, and Jose Padilla, respectively. The vacancies were created when O’Connor retired and Otis and Padilla resigned. The judicial positions are nonpartisan, but media sources reported that Bailey, Nicholls, and Rassas are affiliated with the Republican Party, while Davis is affiliated with the Democratic Party.

Bailey’s elevation to the appellate court creates another vacancy on the Maricopa County Superior Court. The court began accepting applications at the end of April 2020 for Bailey’s seat and two other upcoming vacancies on the bench, which means Ducey will have at least several more judicial appointments to make before the summer starts.

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Candidate filing periods end in Michigan and Florida

Major party filing deadlines passed to run for elected office in Michigan on April 21 and Florida on April 24.

In Michigan, candidates filed for the following state offices:
  • Michigan House of Representatives (110 seats)
  • Ballotpedia is also covering local elections in Wayne County

Michigan’s filing deadline was extended from April 21 to May 8, 2020, for candidates to offices that require nominating petitions to access the ballot. These include non-incumbent judicial candidates and independent state executive candidates, among others. Offices that offer candidates the option to pay filing fees to access the ballot did not have their filing period extended.

In Florida, candidates filed for the following state offices:
  • Supreme Court (1 seat)
  • Intermediate Appellate Court (23 seats)
  • Ballotpedia is also covering local elections in the following areas: Jacksonville, Hillsborough County, Miami-Dade County, Orange County, and Pinellas County

The primary in Michigan is scheduled for August 4, and the primary in Florida is scheduled for August 18. The general election in both states is scheduled for November 3, 2020.

Michigan and Florida’s statewide filing deadlines were the 35th and 36th to take place in the 2020 election cycle. The next statewide filing deadline is on May 5 in Massachusetts.

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



Ohio primary election preview

Ohio will hold a statewide primary on April 28. The primary was originally scheduled to be held on March 17, but polls were closed by the order of the state health director due to the coronavirus pandemic. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine (R) signed HB 197 into law on March 27, extending absentee voting in the state’s primary to April 27, and setting the final date for in-person voting—restricted to individuals with disabilities and those without home mailing addresses—as April 28.

Ballotpedia is covering elections for the following state offices:
  • U.S. House (16 seats)
  • State Senate (16 seats)
  • State House (99 seats)
  • Supreme court (2 seats)
  • Court of appeals (21 seats)
Ballotpedia is also covering elections for the following municipalities:
  • Cuyahoga County
  • Fairfield County
  • Franklin County
  • Hamilton County
  • Lucas County

Ohio has a Republican state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.



Beshear appoints judge to Fayette County District Court

Kentucky Gov Andy Beshear (D) appointed prior Fayette County commonwealth’s attorney Melissa Moore Murphy to serve on the Fayette County District Court on April 16. Murphy was a candidate for the vacant seat on the Fayette County Court created by Judge Julie Goodman’s appointment to the Fayette County Circuit Court.

Murphy has served as a special assistant U.S. attorney for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, assistant McCracken County commonwealth’s attorney, and as an attorney with the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government’s law department. In 2018, Murphy ran for a seat on Kentucky’s 22nd District Court. She was defeated by John Tackett.

Murphy will be sworn into office and assume her place on the Fayette County district court bench on April 24, 2020. She will serve the remainder of Goodman’s term set to end at the end of the year. Murphy will need to run for re-election for her seat in Kentucky’s November election. She is currently the only candidate running for the district court’s fourth division seat.

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Filing deadline approaches for state and judicial races in Michigan and Florida

The major party filing deadline to run for elected office in Michigan is on April 21, 2020, and the filing deadline to run for certain local judicial offices in Florida is on April 24.

In Michigan, prospective candidates may file for the following state offices:
• State Board of Education (2 seats)
• University of Michigan Board of Regents (2 seats)
• Michigan State University Board of Trustees (2 seats)
• Wayne State University Board of Governors (2 seats)
• Michigan House of Representatives (all 110 seats)
• Michigan House of Representatives District 4 special election

Ballotpedia is also covering local elections in Wayne County, Michigan.

Prospective candidates in Florida may file for the following offices:
• Orange County: Public Defender and State Attorney
• Jacksonville: 4th Circuit Court judges (12 seats) and Duval County Court judges (5 seats)

In 2020, Florida will also hold retention elections for one seat on the Florida Supreme Court and 23 seats on the Florida District Court of Appeals. The filing deadline to run for state legislative offices in Florida is June 12, 2020.

The Michigan primary is scheduled for August 4, and the Florida primary is scheduled for August 18. The general election in both states is scheduled for November 3.

Michigan and Florida’s statewide filing deadlines are the 35th and 36th to take place in the 2020 election cycle.

Additional links:
Florida local trial court judicial elections, 2020
Michigan elections, 2020