Tagstate supreme court

Wisconsin Supreme Court primary less than three weeks away

The top two vote-getters in the Feb. 21 nonpartisan primary for Wisconsin Supreme Court will advance to a general election on April 4. Waukesha County Circuit Judge Jennifer Dorow, former Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly, Dane County Circuit Judge Everett Mitchell, and Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Janet Protasiewicz are running.

Justice Patience Roggensack, whose term will expire in July, is not running for re-election.

While supreme court elections are officially nonpartisan, the court is considered to have a 4-3 conservative majority. With Roggensack—a member of the court’s conservative majority—retiring, this election will determine the ideological control of the court. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel‘s Corrinne Hess, “[Mitchell and Protasiewicz] are running as liberal candidates. Kelly and Dorow are running as conservative candidates.”

Dorow joined the Waukesha County Circuit Court in 2012 after being appointed by Gov. Scott Walker (R). In her campaign announcement, Dorow said, “We must replace Justice Roggensack with a judicial conservative who will fairly and faithfully apply the law as written to the facts of the cases that come before the court.” Roggensack endorsed Dorow in January 2023.

Kelly previously served on the supreme court from 2016—when Walker appointed him to fill a vacancy—to 2020. Kelly said, “If an activist were to win next April, Wisconsin’s public policy would be imposed by four lawyers sitting in Madison instead of being adopted through our constitutional processes. I won’t let that happen on my watch.” Justice Rebecca Bradley endorsed Kelly in November 2022.

Mitchell, who was first elected to the Dane County Circuit Court in 2016, said, “[P]reserving the integrity and independence of the court has never been more important. … Wisconsinites deserve a justice who has the highest respect for the Wisconsin Constitution and is committed to ensuring that the Wisconsin Supreme Court is an instrument of balance and justice rather than partisan divide.” Former Justice Louis Butler endorsed Mitchell in June 2022.

Protasiewicz was first elected to the Milwaukee County Circuit Court in 2014. Protasiewicz said, “We must restore confidence that judges aren’t just trying to reach their favored outcomes, but actually applying the law and the constitution. I’m running to restore integrity to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and get politics out of the courtroom.” Justice Rebecca Dallet endorsed Protasiewicz in May 2022.

Wisconsin reporters and political commentators have identified abortion policy, election administration, and legislative redistricting as some of the legal issues the court could address following the election. According to the Wisconsin State Journal‘s Alexander Shur, “With the court’s ideological balance up for grabs, the candidate elected in April will play a decisive role in upcoming cases that may include the legality of Wisconsin’s near-complete 1849 abortion ban, fights over legislative redistricting and the power of the executive branch in administering laws.” Wisconsin has a divided government where neither party holds a trifecta. The governor is Democrat Tony Evers, while the Republican Party controls both chambers of the state legislature.

University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse political analyst Anthony Chergosky said in November 2022 that the entrance of a fourth candidate “injected [the race] with a lot of unpredictability,” noting the possibility of two conservative or two liberal candidates advancing to the general election. WKOW TV Capitol Bureau Chief A.J. Bayatpour and Cap Times Capitol Bureau Chief Jessie Opoien each said in January 2023 that they did not think it was likely that two conservative or two liberal candidates would advance.

Heading into the 2020 election, the court had a 5-2 conservative majority. In that election, liberal Jill Karofsky defeated Kelly 55.2% to 44.7%.

Wisconsin is one of two states holding elections for state supreme court in 2023.



Former justice, three circuit court judges vying for open seat on Wisconsin Supreme Court

Jennifer Dorow, Daniel Kelly, Everett Mitchell, and Janet Protasiewicz are running in the nonpartisan primary for an open seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court on Feb. 21, 2023. The filing deadline is Jan. 3. A nonpartisan general election will be held on April 4.

Justice Patience Roggensack’s term will expire on July 31, 2023. Roggensack is not running for re-election.

While supreme court elections are officially nonpartisan, the court is considered to have a 4-3 conservative majority. With Roggensack—a member of the court’s conservative majority—retiring, this election will determine the ideological control of the court. In 2020, liberals gained a seat when Jill Karofsky defeated then-Justice Daniel Kelly—who Gov. Scott Walker (R) appointed to the court—55.2% to 44.7%.

Dorow joined the Waukesha County Circuit Court in 2012 after being appointed by Walker. In her campaign announcement, Dorow said, “We must replace Justice Roggensack with a judicial conservative who will fairly and faithfully apply the law as written to the facts of the cases that come before the court.”

Kelly, who previously served on the supreme court from 2016 to 2020, said, “If an activist were to win next April, Wisconsin’s public policy would be imposed by four lawyers sitting in Madison instead of being adopted through our constitutional processes. I won’t let that happen on my watch.”

Mitchell, who was first elected to the Dane County Circuit Court in 2016, said, “[P]reserving the integrity and independence of the court has never been more important. … Wisconsinites deserve a justice who has the highest respect for the Wisconsin Constitution and is committed to ensuring that the Wisconsin Supreme Court is an instrument of balance and justice rather than partisan divide.”

Protasiewicz was first elected to the Milwaukee County Circuit Court in 2014. Protasiewicz said, “We must restore confidence that judges aren’t just trying to reach their favored outcomes, but actually applying the law and the constitution. I’m running to restore integrity to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and get politics out of the courtroom.”

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel‘s Corrinne Hess, “[Mitchell and Protasiewicz] are running as liberal candidates. Kelly and Dorow are running as conservative candidates.”

University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse political analyst Anthony Chergosky said after Dorow entered the race, “We could have a primary election where two liberal justices emerge as the top two. We could have a primary election where two conservative justices emerge as the top two. … We are experiencing a campaign that just got injected with a lot of unpredictability.”

Reporters have identified abortion policy, election administration, and legislative redistricting as some of the contentious issues the court could address following the election.

Wisconsin has a divided government where neither party holds a trifecta. The governor is Democrat Tony Evers, while the Republican Party controls both chambers of the state legislature.

Wisconsin is one of two states holding elections for state supreme court in 2023.



All candidates for one of North Carolina’s Supreme Court races complete Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey

Both of the candidates running in the November 8, 2022, general election for one of the seats on North Carolina’s Supreme Court — incumbent Sam Ervin IV (D) and Trey Allen (R) — completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey. These survey responses allow voters to hear directly from candidates about what motivates them to run for office. 

The North Carolina Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort and has seven judgeships. As of October 2022, three judges on the court were elected in nonpartisan elections, one was elected in a partisan election as a Democrat, and three were elected in partisan elections as Republicans.

Here are excerpts from candidates’ responses to the question: How would you describe your legal philosophy?            

Ervin IV:           

“My judicial philosophy is relatively simple. A member of the appellate judiciary has two essential tasks. First, he or she is called upon to decide legal disputes between citizens and citizens; citizens and business entities; multiple business entities; and citizens or business entities, on the one hand, and the State or state agencies, on the other. Secondly, members of the appellate judiciary are called upon to ensure that the legislative, executive, and judicial branches exercise the authority that is available to them subject to appropriate constitutional limits. I believe that the role of a judge in attempting to carry out both of these functions is to decide specific cases on the basis of the existing law and the properly-established facts without attempting to further any sort of political or ideological agenda.”

Allen:

“I believe that our state’s judges should remain faithful to our federal and state constitutions, base their decisions solely on the facts and the law, and provide equal justice under law for all North Carolinians. In constitutional cases, judges should be guided by the text and history of the constitutional provision(s) at issue. Judges should interpret statutes according to their wording and the intent of the legislature. Judges should not rewrite our laws to match their personal preferences or political opinions. While treating everyone fairly and with respect, the courts should hold individuals who have been duly convicted of crimes accountable for their actions.”

Click on the candidates’ profile pages below to read their full responses to this and other questions.

We ask all federal, state, and local candidates with profiles on Ballotpedia to complete a survey and share what motivates them on political and personal levels. Ask the candidates in your area to fill out the survey.

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Delaware Supreme Court ends no-excuse mail ballots, same-day voter registration

On Oct. 7, 2022, the Delaware Supreme Court issued a ruling in Albence v. Biggin and Mennella, finding that a state law permitting no-excuse mail-in voting and same-day voter registration was unconstitutional. Voters may now only receive mail ballots under certain conditions and the deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 8 general election will be Oct. 15.

The majority-Democratic state legislature passed the legislation allowing both no-excuse mail-in voting and same-day registration passed this summer. Legislators passed the laws after votes to put them on the ballot as a constitutional amendment failed.

In a response to the ruling, a spokesman for Gov. John Carney (D) said, “The governor’s position has been simple and consistent,. We should make it easier – not harder – for all eligible Delawareans to vote and participate in our democratic process.”

Jane Brady, Delaware Republican Party chair, said, “I am very pleased that the court recognized the language of the constitution means something and it was important that the ruling they issued was supported by law.”

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Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Max Baer dies

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Max Baer (D) died on Sept. 30, 2022. 

Baer was elected to the state supreme court in 2003. He was retained with 71% of the vote on Nov. 5, 2013. Prior to joining the court, he was an administrative judge on the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. He also worked as an attorney in private practice and as a deputy attorney general with the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office.

In Pennsylvania, state supreme court vacancies are filled by appointment. Appointed judges are allowed to run in the next general election more than 10 months after the vacancy.

Pennsylvania is one of eight states to elect its supreme court justices via partisan elections. The other states are Alabama, Illinois, Louisiana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, and Texas.

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Votes for Arkansas marijuana legalization initiative will be counted

Votes for Arkansas Issue 4, a marijuana legalization initiative on the November ballot, will be counted after the Arkansas Supreme Court overturned the Arkansas State Board of Election Commissioners’ decision to not certify the initiative’s ballot title.

Responsible Growth Arkansas, the campaign behind the marijuana legalization initiative, submitted more than 190,000 signatures on July 8. The Arkansas secretary of state announced on July 29 that the campaign had submitted more than the required number of valid signatures (89,151) and qualified for the ballot.

On Aug. 3, 2022, the election commissioners declined to certify the ballot title and popular name for the initiative, stating that the language was misleading. The next day, Responsible Growth Arkansas filed a lawsuit in the state Supreme Court. The campaign said the board “[thwarted] the will of the people and their right to adopt laws by initiative.” The campaign requested an expedited review because the deadline for the secretary of state to certify measures for the 2022 ballot was August 25. On August 11, the state Supreme Court ordered the secretary of state to certify the measure for the ballot.

Under Issue 4, adults 21 years old and older would be authorized to possess up to one ounce of marijuana. Adults could possess up to one ounce of marijuana. By March 7, 2023, businesses that already hold licenses under the state’s medical marijuana program would be authorized to sell adult-use marijuana at their existing dispensaries and one additional location for adult-use marijuana sales only. By July 5, 2023, an additional 40 licenses would be given to businesses chosen by a lottery and would need to be located at least five miles away from a dispensary with an active license. The Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Division of the Department of Finance and Administration would regulate the program and provide for licensing.

Responsible Growth Arkansas has raised $4.01 million according to campaign finance reports covering information through August 31. The campaign said Issue 4 would “[support] law enforcement salaries and bolster local police budgets so that our officers can go after serious crime,” “[improve] the Arkansas’ existing medical marijuana program by removing burdensome taxes that are currently being paid by qualified patients receiving medical treatment,” and “safely legalize the sale of cannabis to adults 21 and older and create revenue that goes to more funding for local police departments.”

Safe and Secure Communities registered to oppose the initiative and has raised $2 million. Safe and Secure Communities said, “We’re on a mission to save Arkansas from the destructive effects of legalized drugs, and we need your support. Many cities around the nation are destroyed, and now Arkansas is at risk. Help keep Arkansas communities secure and our citizens safe. The pot industry is directly targeting kids, even though hundreds of scientific studies show that marijuana – especially today’s high-potency weed – permanently damages the teenage brain. Teens who smoke pot regularly drop out at twice the rate of non-users, and as adults they earn less and have a lower IQ. Marijuana-related policy changes, including legalization, have significant unintended consequences for children, adolescents, and cities large and small.”

Marijuana legalization measures are certified to appear on the 2022 ballot in Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Currently, 19 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized the possession and personal use of marijuana for recreational purposes. Eleven states and D.C. had legalized marijuana through the ballot initiative process. A marijuana legalization initiative targeting the 2022 ballot in Oklahoma was ordered to appear on the 2024 ballot after legal challenges were not resolved before state deadlines to print ballots.



Challenge period for Oklahoma marijuana initiative ends with four challenges filed; state supreme court to decide on whether the initiative will appear on the 2022 ballot

A 10-day challenge period for Oklahoma marijuana initiative State Question 820 ended on September 15 with four challenges filed with the state Supreme Court. In addition to resolving the challenges, the Supreme Court is also set to decide on whether the measure will be placed on the November 2022 ballot.

Once signatures for an initiative are submitted, the secretary of state’s office counts the signatures and submits a report to the court. On August 22, the secretary of state announced that proponents submitted 117,257 valid signatures and forwarded the signature count report to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. After the supreme court determines the sufficiency of signatures, the court orders the secretary of state to publish a notice of the signature submission, the ballot title, and notice that any citizen may file a petition challenging the sufficiency of the signatures or ballot title within 10 days.

The challenge period for State Question 820 began on September 1 and ended on September 15, 2022. Two challenges were filed related to the validity of signatures submitted for the initiative and two challenges were filed related to the initiative’s ballot language.

Former Oklahoma State Rep. Mike Reynolds (R) and former gubernatorial candidate Paul Tay (I) filed lawsuits with the Oklahoma Supreme Court challenging the validity of signatures submitted by proponents. Reynolds argued that the validity of signatures cannot be reviewed without taking legal action to review them and requested a signature review period. Tay argued that signatures collected on American Indian lands should be invalidated. Attorneys for initiative sponsors said, “As this Court is aware, ballot deadlines are looming, and time is of the essence here. Proponents thus respectfully request that the Court resolve the instant challenge quickly, to ensure that SQ820 may be submitted to a vote of the People at the upcoming November 2022 general election.”

A challenge to the initiative’s ballot language was filed by John Stotts, a former member of the Pottawatomie County Farm Bureau board of directors; Karma Robinson, president of public affairs and political communications firm GR Pro; and Mary Chris Barth, a current member of the Beaver County Farm Bureau’s board of directors. The challenge alleged that the ballot language is misleading because it fails to mention that “several laws protecting children from marijuana would be removed,” “possession of a firearm while under the influence of marijuana would be legalized,” and “more serious marijuana crimes would be legalized or decriminalized.”

A second challenge to the ballot language was filed by Oklahomans for Responsible Cannabis Action director Jed Green, sponsor of other proposed marijuana initiatives for which no signatures were submitted by the August deadline. Green alleged that State Question 820’s ballot language is misleading because it fails to mention that the initiative could be amended by the state legislature if approved by voters, public consumption fines would be limited to $25, and that medical marijuana dispensaries would need a second license to sell adult-use marijuana.

After an initiative petition is found to have sufficient signatures and all challenges have been resolved, the secretary of state notifies the governor, who issues an election proclamation. The governor’s election proclamation must be issued and certified to the State Election Board at least 70 days prior to an election in order for a state question to appear on a ballot. Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said August 29 (70 days prior to the general election) was the deadline to formally certify measures for the ballot.

State Question 820 sponsors asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court to expedite the ballot title verification process and include the measure on the November 2022 ballot, saying that “The new process took about 48 days from the time we turned in our signatures until the time they were verified. In the past, that was usually about two weeks or a little longer. It’s been a new process for them, which has caused a lot of missteps along the way. They have dropped the ball, which is why we have asked the Supreme Court to intervene.” The state argued for the measure to be placed on the ballot for a later election — either a special election if one is called or the 2024 ballot.

In a press release published on September 16, the State Question 820 campaign said proponents “remain optimistic that the Oklahoma Supreme Court will act swiftly to dismiss the seemingly politically motivated challenges, and let the people vote.”

Marijuana legalization measures are certified to appear on the 2022 ballot in Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Votes on the Arkansas initiative may not be counted pending a state Supreme Court ruling.



Ohio Supreme Court overturns state’s congressional district boundaries; map to still be used for 2022 elections

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled 4-3 on July 19, 2022, that the congressional district boundaries that the Ohio Redistricting Commission adopted on March 2 were unconstitutional. Since the state’s 2022 primary elections were held on May 3 using the overturned districts, this year’s congressional elections will take place using the existing boundaries.

The state supreme court directed the Ohio General Assembly to pass a compliant plan within 30 days. If the general assembly fails to do so, the court ordered the redistricting commission to then adopt a plan within 30 days. The state would use that map for its 2024 congressional elections.

Since the boundaries that the redistricting commission adopted in March 2022 did not receive support from any commission members of the minority party, it would have been in effect for only four years. Under the constitutional amendment establishing the redistricting commission that voters approved in 2018, the commission was required to enact a new map after the 2024 elections.

Justices Maureen O’Connor, Michael Donnelly, and Melody Stewart signed the state supreme court’s majority opinion with Justice Jennifer Brunner filing a concurring opinion. Justices Sharon Kennedy, Pat DeWine, and Pat Fischer wrote or joined dissenting opinions.

The court’s opinion said, “Petitioners have satisfied their burden by showing beyond a reasonable doubt that the March 2 plan unduly favors the Republican Party in violation of Article XIX, Section 1(C)(3)(a) of the Ohio Constitution. Comparative analyses and other metrics show that the March 2 plan allocates voters in ways that unnecessarily favor the Republican Party by packing Democratic voters into a few dense Democratic-leaning districts, thereby increasing the Republican vote share of the remaining districts. As a result, districts that would otherwise be strongly Democratic-leaning are now competitive or Republican-leaning districts.”

The dissenting opinion signed by Justices Kennedy and DeWine said, “We disagree, however, with the majority’s conclusion that the March 2 plan is invalid because it violates Article XIX, Section 1(C)(3)(a) of the Ohio constitution for ‘unduly favor[ing] or disfavor[ing] a political party or its incumbents.’…Therefore, we would hold that the March 2 plan is constitutional and order its use for the 2024 primary and general elections. Because the majority does otherwise, we dissent.”

Governor Mike DeWine (R) first signed a new congressional map into law on November 20, 2021, after the state Senate voted to approve it 24-7 and the state House approved it 55-36. On January 14, the Ohio Supreme Court struck down the state’s enacted congressional map and ordered the legislature to redraw it. The Ohio Redistricting Commission approved redrawn congressional boundaries in a 5-2 vote along party lines.

Additional reading:

Ohio Supreme Court

Mike DeWine

Redistricting in Ohio



Massachusetts Supreme Court disqualifies app-based drivers initiative from November ballot

On June 14, the Massachusetts Supreme Court issued a ruling disqualifying the app-based drivers initiative backed by Lyft, Instacart, DoorDash, and Uber, from the November ballot. 

A lawsuit was filed in January against Secretary of State William Galvin (D) and Attorney General Maura Healey (D) by several app-based drivers and voters arguing that the initiative ​​should not have been approved for circulation because the petition violates the state’s constitutional requirement that subjects of an initiative are related or mutually dependent.

The court agreed with the plaintiffs. Justice Scott Kafker, who wrote the opinion for the court, said, “The petitions thus violate the related subjects requirement because they present voters with two substantively distinct policy decisions: one confined for the most part to the contract-based and voluntary relationship between app-based drivers and network companies; the other — couched in confusingly vague and open-ended provisions — apparently seeking to limit the network companies’ liability to third parties injured by app-based drivers’ tortious conduct.”

Conor Yunits, a spokesperson for Flexibility & Benefits for Massachusetts Drivers, the campaign behind the initiative, said, “A clear majority of Massachusetts voters and rideshare and delivery drivers both supported and would have passed this ballot question into law. That’s exactly why opponents resorted to litigation to subvert the democratic process and deny voters the right to make their own decision. The future of these services and the drivers who earn on them is now in jeopardy, and we hope the legislature will stand with the 80% of drivers who want flexibility and to remain independent contractors while having access to new benefits.”

Sponsors filed two versions of the initiative. Both versions of the initiative would have classified app-based drivers as independent contractors and enacted several labor policies. The versions are identical except Version A would have required paid occupational safety training before accessing a company’s platform or mobile application. The initiative was modeled after a 2020 California initiative that was approved by a margin of 58.6% to 41.4% but was later ruled unconstitutional by a county superior court. This ruling is being appealed.

Flexibility & Benefits for Massachusetts Drivers reported $17.8 million in contributions. The top donors to the committee were Lyft ($14.4 million), Instacart ($1.2 million), DoorDash ($1.2 million), and Uber ($1.1 million). The opposition campaign, Coalition to Protect Workers’ Rights, reported $1 million in contributions.

There are two other ballot initiatives related to alcohol retail licensing and medical loss ratios for dental insurance plans that are collecting the second round of signatures needed to earn a spot on the November ballot. The second round of 13,374 signatures is due July 6. 

Between 2010 and 2020, an average of 29 ballot initiatives were filed for even-numbered year ballots in Massachusetts, and an average of three ballot initiatives made the ballot.

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Missouri Supreme Court issues one decision and hears arguments in four cases

The Missouri Supreme Court has made one decision, heard arguments in four cases, and has four more cases on the docket for May.

State of Missouri v. Joshua Steven Collins was argued on Dec. 8, 2021, and the opinion was issued on May 17. The circuit court’s decision was unanimously affirmed. The case summary can be found here.

The Court heard arguments in the following cases on May 11:

  • Bruce S. Schlafly v. Anne S. Cori
  • Carfax Inc. v. Director of Revenue
  • Robert March v. Treasurer of the State of Missouri – Custodian of the Second Injury Fund
  • Travis Poke v. Independence School District

In 2022, the Missouri Supreme Court has heard arguments in 29 cases and issued 26 decisions. The Court has eight cases on the docket for May. The final four hearings for the month will be held on May 24. 

Founded in 1820, the Missouri Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort and has seven justices. Justices are are appointed to 12-year terms by the governor from a list provided by the Missouri Appellete Judicial Comission. As of Sept. 2021, three judges were appointed by a Democratic governor and four by a Republican governor. 

The jurisdiction of the Missouri Supreme Court includes appeals concerning the validity of federal statutes and treaties in addition to state statues, state revenue laws, the right of a state elected official to hold office, and the imposition of the death penalty. The Missouri Supreme Court also has the discretion to hear appeals on questions of general interest and if a lower court’s decision is in conflict with a previous appellate decision.