Tagstate supreme court

Arizona Supreme Court Justice Andrew Gould retires

Andrew Gould retired as an associate justice of the Arizona Supreme Court on April 1. He had announced that he would retire from the court on March 12.

Governor Doug Ducey (R) appointed Gould to the state supreme court on Nov. 28, 2016, after a new bill expanded the court from five justices to seven. Gould won a retention election in 2020, receiving 68.1% of the vote. His current term would have expired in January 2027.

Ducey will appoint a replacement justice to the state supreme court to fill this vacancy. Newly-appointed judges must stand for retention to remain on the court during the next general election after they serve at least two years on the bench.

The Arizona Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort. Republican governors appointed all seven judges on the court. Governor Ducey appointed five, and former Gov. Janice Kay Brewer (R) appointed two.

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New Jersey statewide filing deadline is April 5

The filing deadline to run for elected office in New Jersey is on April 5, 2021. In New Jersey, prospective candidates may file for the following offices:

• Governor

• Lieutenant Governor

• New Jersey State Senate (all 40 seats)

• New Jersey General Assembly (all 80 seats)

Ballotpedia is also covering local elections in the following counties:

• Essex County

• Hudson County

The primary is scheduled for June 8, and the general election is scheduled for November 2.

New Jersey’s statewide filing deadline is the fifth of six to take place in the 2021 election cycle. The last statewide filing deadline is on May 21 in Washington.

New Jersey has a Democratic state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers. Democrats have a 25-14 majority with one vacancy in the state Senate and a 52-28 majority in the state House. Democratic Governor Phil Murphy was elected to office in 2017.

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New Jersey Governor announces nomination of state supreme court justice

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy (D) announced on March 15 that he would nominate Rachel Wainer Apter to the New Jersey Supreme Court. She will replace Justice Jaynee LaVecchia, who is retiring on Aug. 31.

Wainer Apter has served as a director with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, a counsel to the New Jersey Attorney General, and an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. From 2011 to 2012, Wainer Apter was a law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and has also clerked for federal judges Robert Katzmann and Jed Rakoff.

State law requires supreme court nominees to pass the “advice and consent” of the state Senate one week after the governor issues a public notice of the nomination. 

This is Gov. Murphy’s second nominee to the seven-member supreme court. The court will switch from a 4-3 majority of justices appointed by Republican governors to a 4-3 majority of justices appointed by Democratic governors. According to state law, the New Jersey governor may appoint justices to have up to a one-seat partisan advantage on the court, but he or she may go no further than that.

Twenty-six state supreme courts have Republican majorities, 16 have Democratic majorities, and eight have split or indeterminate majorities.

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Arizona supreme court justice schedules retirement

Arizona Supreme Court Justice Andrew Gould has scheduled his retirement for April 1, 2021. Gould’s replacement will be Arizona Governor Doug Ducey’s (R) sixth nominee to the seven-member supreme court.

Under Arizona law, justices on the Arizona Supreme Court are selected through the assisted appointment method for six-year renewable terms. Following the initial appointment, judges are subject to a retention election in the next general election which occurs more than two years after the appointment.

Gould joined the Arizona Supreme Court in 2016. He was appointed by Governor Ducey.

Before serving on the state supreme court, Gould served as a judge with Division One of the Arizona Court of Appeals from 2011 to 2016. He served as a judge with the Yuma County Superior Court from 2001 to 2011. Gould served as chief civil deputy for the Yuma County Attorney’s Office from 1999 to 2001. Previously, he worked as a civil litigator in private practice.

Following Gould’s retirement, the Arizona Supreme Court will include the following members:

• Robert Brutinel, appointed by Gov. Jan Brewer (R) in 2010

• Ann Timmer, appointed by Gov. Jan Brewer (R) in 2012

• Clint Bolick, appointed by Gov. Doug Ducey (R) in 2016

• John Lopez IV, appointed by Gov. Doug Ducey (R) in 2016

• James Beene, appointed by Gov. Doug Ducey (R) in 2019

• Bill Montgomery, appointed by Gov. Doug Ducey (R) in 2019

In 2021, there have been 10 supreme court vacancies in nine of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. The vacancies have been caused by retirements.

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New Jersey Supreme Court justice schedules retirement

New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Jaynee LaVecchia scheduled her retirement for August 31, 2021. LaVecchia’s replacement will be Governor Phil Murphy’s (D) second nominee to the seven-member supreme court.

Under New Jersey law, when a vacancy occurs, justices of the New Jersey Supreme Court are nominated by the governor. One week after the public notice is issued by the governor, the nominees must be confirmed by the New Jersey State Senate. Newly appointed judges serve for seven years, after which they may be reappointed to serve until age 70, the mandatory retirement age.

Justice LaVecchia joined the New Jersey Supreme Court in 2000. She was appointed to the court by Governor Christine Todd Whitman (R).

Before serving on the state supreme court, LaVecchia served as the New Jersey Commissioner of Banking and Insurance from August 24, 1998, until the time of her judicial appointment. She served as a Law Division Director with the Department of Law and Public Safety from 1994 to 1998. She served as a director and as a chief administrative law judge for the Office of Administrative Law from 1989 to 1994. She also served as an assistant counsel and as a deputy chief counsel with the Office of Counsel to Gov. Thomas Kean (R).

Following LaVecchia’s retirement, the New Jersey Supreme Court will include the following members:

Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, appointed by Gov. Jon Corzine (D) in 2007

Justice Fabiana Pierre-Louis, appointed by Gov. Phil Murphy (D) in 2020

Justice Barry Albin, appointed by Gov. James McGreevey (D) in 2002

Justice Anne Patterson, appointed by Gov. Chris Christie (R) in 2010

Justice Faustino J. Fernandez-Vina, appointed by Gov. Chris Christie (R) in 2013

Justice Lee A. Solomon, appointed by Gov. Chris Christie (R) in 2014

In 2021, there have been nine supreme court vacancies in eight of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. The vacancies have been caused by retirements.

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Michigan/Ohio Judicial Selection Method yields most visible partisanship

The Michigan-Ohio method of judicial selection manifests the most signs of partisanship out of any of the eight methods used across state supreme courts, according to Ballotpedia’s recently-published study on state supreme courts.

There are three broad categories of state supreme court selection: Assisted Appointment, Direct Appointment, and Election. Within these three broad categories, there are eight ways of administering selection among the states. We classify them with the following subcategories:

• Assisted Appointment

◦ Assisted Appointment through Bar-Controlled Commission

◦ Assisted Appointment through Governor-Controlled Commission

◦ Assisted Appointment through Hybrid Commission

• Direct Appointment

◦ Direct Gubernatorial Appointment

◦ Direct Legislative Appointment

• Election

◦ Michigan-Ohio Method

◦ Partisan Election

◦ Nonpartisan Election

The Michigan-Ohio method selects justices through nonpartisan elections preceded by a partisan primary or convention. In these states, partisan primaries are held to determine judicial nominees, and the winners of each primary compete in a nonpartisan election for ultimate selection to the court. Only Michigan and Ohio use this method of judicial selection.

The Pure Partisanship Score attempts to show our total confidence in partisan affiliations on a court. Selection methods with a lower Pure Partisan Score have, on average, justices with lower Confidence Scores, without consideration of the specific party for which there is evidence of their party affiliation.

Of all selection methods, the Michigan-Ohio method produced justices with the highest Pure Partisanship Score, on average. Whereas the average Pure Partisanship Score for justices nationally is 7, justices in Michigan and Ohio record an average Pure Partisanship Score of 11. Of the 14 justices across both states’ supreme courts, four (all in Michigan) were selected by the governor to fill vacancies. Not including the scores for the four justices appointed to fill vacancies, the Michigan-Ohio method records an average Pure Partisanship Score of 10.3.

The method of selection which accounts for the second-highest average Pure Partisanship Score is Partisan Election, which records a score of 9.8. Seven states use this method: Alabama, Illinois, Louisiana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

The method of selection that accounts for the third-highest average Pure Partisan Score is Nonpartisan Election, which records a score of 6.4. This method is used by 13 states: Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin, and West Virginia.

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Direct Legislative Appointment method produces the lowest average partisanship confidence score for state supreme court justices according to the Ballotpedia Courts: State Partisanship study. 

Direct legislative appointment yields the lowest average partisan confidence score for state supreme court justices of any method, according to the Ballotpedia Courts: State Partisanship study. The Michigan-Ohio method produced the highest average partisan confidence score of 11 for all justices, while the direct legislative appointment method produced an average partisan confidence score of 5 for its justices.  

In addition to recording the lowest average partisan confidence score for justices, the direct legislative appointment method produced a court balance score of 3.7. The court balance score recorded for direct legislative appointment was the fifth-highest across the eight selection methods. We arrived at a court balance score by finding the average of partisan confidence scores while accounting for the differences between Democrats and Republicans, whereas the average score, also referred to as the pure partisanship score, is the average of all scores without regard to the differences between Democrats and Republicans. 

Although the direct legislative appointment method produced a low average partisanship score for its justices, this could be due to the fact that it is used in fewer states than other methods. Only South Carolina and Virginia use direct legislative appointment.

South Carolina has four justices with mild Republican affiliation and one justice with indeterminate partisan affiliation. The court balance score for South Carolina is 4.2, mildly Republican. The pure partisanship score for South Carolina’s justices is 4.6, compared to the national average of 7.

Virginia has one justice with strong Republican affiliation, three justices with mild Republican affiliation, one justice with mild Democratic affiliation, and two justices with indeterminate partisan affiliation. The court balance score for Virginia is 3.3, mildly Republican. The pure partisanship score for Virginia’s justices is 5.3, compared to the national average of 7.

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Former N.H. Attorney General Gordon MacDonald sworn in as chief justice of state Supreme Court

Former Attorney General Gordon MacDonald was sworn in to the New Hampshire Supreme Court on March 4. He was nominated by Gov. Chris Sununu (R) on Jan. 7 to succeed Robert Lynn, and the New Hampshire Executive Council voted 4-1 to confirm his nomination on Jan. 22. All four Republican members of the executive council voted to confirm. The only vote against confirmation was from Cinde Warmington (D).

The New Hampshire Executive Council is a five-member state executive board that oversees the state budget and approves gubernatorial appointments. Following the 2020 elections, the executive council switched from Democratic to Republican control. 

Gov. Sununu previously nominated MacDonald to succeed Robert Lynn as chief justice in June 2019, when the executive council was still under Democratic control. However, the council voted 3-2 along party lines to reject MacDonald’s nomination.

Robert Lynn was the chief justice of the Supreme Court from Feb. 6, 2018, until his retirement on Aug. 23, 2019. His seat on the court remained vacant until MacDonald joined the court.

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Breaking down partisanship on the New Jersey Supreme Court

A recent Ballotpedia study on state supreme courts revealed that of the seven justices on the New Jersey Supreme Court as of June 2020:

  1. Two justices had some level of affiliation with the Democratic party
  2. Four justices had a Republican affiliation
  3. One justice had an indeterminate partisan affiliation.

In “Ballotpedia Courts: State Partisanship”, we gathered a variety of data on 341 active state supreme court justices across the 50 states in order to understand their partisan affiliations. Based on this research, we placed each justice into one of five categories indicating our confidence in their affiliations with either the Democratic or Republican Parties. These categories are:

  1. Strong Democratic
  2. Mild Democratic
  3. Indeterminate
  4. Mild Republican
  5. Strong Republican

Our confidence measure shows that in 2020, there were two Mild Democrats on the New Jersey Supreme Court (Justices Stuart Rabner and Barry Albin), four Mild Republicans (Justices Lee Solomon, Anne Patterson, Jaynee LaVecchia, and Faustino Fernandez-Vina), and one Indeterminate justice (Justice Timpone). Justice Timpone retired on August 31, 2020, 10 weeks before his mandatory retirement date of November 10, to allow his replacement, Justice Fabiana Pierre-Louis, to join the bench for the September court session. As our study concluded in June 2020, we did not include Justice Pierre-Louis in our research.

New Jersey has informal, but no constitutional rules which mandate a partisan balance on the state supreme court. The National Center for State Courts describes New Jersey’s informal process of ensuring partisan balance on its state supreme court as follows:

“New Jersey’s courts also have a tradition of political balance. Governors, regardless of their party affiliation, have generally followed a policy of replacing outgoing judges with someone of the same party or philosophy. On the supreme court, the traditional balance is three Democrats and three Republicans, with the chief justice belonging to the party of the appointing governor.”

The state of New Jersey has two rules governing judicial appointments: one written, one unwritten. The written law requires that justices are subject to reappointment by the governor and reconfirmation by the legislature after an initial seven-year term. The unwritten rule is that the governor of the state of New Jersey is to appoint justices in a way that alternates the party of the justice each time he receives the opportunity to appoint a new justice to the court to ensure partisan balance on the court.

While John Corzine (D) was governor of New Jersey, he appointed two justices to the court, Helen Hoens and Stuart Rabner. One of his nominees, Stuart Rabner, was Gov. Corzine’s chief legal counsel and the attorney general for the state of New Jersey. Gov. Corzine also reappointed two Republican-leaning justices nominated to the bench by Governor Christine Todd Whitman (R) and one Democratic-leaning justice appointed to the bench by Governor James McGreevey (D).

Governor Chris Christie (R) broke the precedent in attempting to appoint another Republican-leaning justice to the state supreme court without first reappointing Justice Rabner. Gov. Christie also did not reappoint Helen Hoens, who was first appointed by Governor Christine Todd Whitman, and stated that he did so because he knew the Senate would reject her nomination. Justice Hoens is only the second justice in the history of New Jersey to sit on the court and not receive renomination after her second term. The only previous justice not to receive renomination was Justice John E. Wallace, a Gov. James McGreevey (D) appointment who Gov. Christie also did not renominate.

Gov. Christie’s Republican appointments recorded lower partisan Confidence Scores than the justices appointed by Whitman and Corzine. This means that, according to our data, Christie’s appointments were less partisan in their affiliations than the other New Jersey governors with appointments to the court. Christie’s appointments record an average Pure Partisan Score of 4.5. Whitman’s justices register an average Pure Partisan Score of 7. Corzine’s justices register an average Pure Partisan Score of 9. McGreevey’s justices record an average Pure Partisan Score of 7.

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North Dakota Supreme Court rules on state legislative appointment

After a state Supreme Court ruling last fall, North Dakota Rep. Jeff Delzer (R) remains in office at the start of the legislative session following a primary defeat in 2020.

In North Dakota, each of the state’s 47 districts elects two representatives to the state House. Challengers David Andahl and Dave Nehring defeated Delzer in the 2020 primary election and proceeded to the general election for the district’s two seats.

Delzer’s primary defeat highlighted divisions between the legislator and Gov. Doug Burgum (R). During the 2020 primary election, Burgum donated over $3.1 million to a political action committee opposing Delzer. Burgum and Delzer have disagreed over the state’s budgeting in the past. Burgum, as governor, proposes a budget every two years, but the legislature approves the final budget. Delzer, as chair of the House Appropriations Committee, directs those budgeting proceedings in the House.

These divisions became apparent again following the Nov. 3 general election. Andahl and Nehring won election to the district’s two seats, but Andahl passed away a month before the election, leaving one seat immediately vacant.

Under state law, when a legislative vacancy occurs, the former legislator’s district party can appoint a replacement. Burgum argued that state law was unclear about instances where a candidate dies before the election and argued that he, instead, held appointment authority.
On Nov. 4, Burgum appointed Wade Boesham (R) to the seat. On Nov. 18, the District 8 GOP appointed Delzer. The following week, the North Dakota Supreme Court ruled that state law applied in this case and that the district party held appointment authority.

Delzer and Nehring were sworn in to represent House District 8 on Dec. 1.