Legislators revive plan to change selection of judges
(AP) – A proposed constitutional amendment to change how Nevadans elect judges is coming back to life in the waning days of the 2007 session, after being killed in the Assembly Judiciary Committee.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, sought to have SJR2 revived during closed-door budget negotiations with Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas. The measure was approved by Judiciary on Thursday and sent to the Assembly floor for vote by the full house.
As leaders of their houses, Raggio and Buckley have power to issue waivers to revive legislation that has been killed in committee.
Buckley said she supported the resolution, so it was easy for her to resurrect it.
“Too often the public believes that justice is for sale because of the way judges are selected in our state,” Buckley said.
The resolution, sponsored by Raggio, would allow voters to adopt a so-called Missouri Plan system of appointing District Court judges and Supreme Court justices. Currently in Nevada, judges and justices run in open elections.
After initially being appointed to their jobs by a selection committee, the judges and justices who want to continue in the positions would appear on the election ballot for retention or rejection by voters.
A judge getting less than 55 percent of the vote would not be retained, and a new judicial appointment would be made. The figure had been 60 percent, but the bill was amended in Assembly Judiciary.
For the proposal to become law, both houses of the Legislature must approve the proposal this year and again in 2009, and Nevada voters in 2010 must approve it.
Raggio said SJR2 would reduce the need for judges and justices to solicit campaign contributions, since they would not be running against an opponent.
“I hate to see judges have to go out and promise they will do one thing or another,” Raggio said, noting he has practiced law in Nevada for more than 50 years. “There is a perception” that contributions will lead to favorable decisions in cases.