Lawmakers urged to back appointment of judges | NevadaAppeal.com

Lawmakers urged to back appointment of judges

BRENDAN RILEY
Associated Press Writer

Comparisons between judges soliciting for campaign contributions and “a hooker down by the bus station” were drawn Monday as lawmakers were urged to back a plan that would end Nevada’s current system of electing jurists.

Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, used the often-repeated line, made several years ago by Ohio Supreme Court Justice Paul Pfeiffer, in urging the Senate Judiciary Committee to support a Nevada variation of the so-called Missouri Plan system of appointing judges.

Pfeiffer, Raggio said, stated, “I never felt so much like a hooker down by the bus station in any race I’ve ever been in as I did in a judicial race. Everyone interested in contribution had very specific interests. They mean to be buying a vote.”

SJR2 would amend the Nevada Constitution to switch open judicial races to appointments, followed by elections in which voters would decide whether to retain a judge. The plan, approved by the 2007 Legislature, must be approved again this session in order to go to a public vote in 2010.

While Raggio, Chief Justice Jim Hardesty and others argued for approval of SJR2, Senate Judiciary member Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, raised several questions about the proposal, saying, “It tastes and feels like inside ball.”

“You’ve got members of the bench, members of the bar selecting those folks,” Amodei added in describing the selection process in SJR2, adding, “What’s the power dynamic within this group of people who are going to now have the ability to basically establish and maintain incumbency?”

Hardesty said the proposal has safeguards, including a “significant” requirement that an appointed judge facing a later retention election get 55 percent of the vote.

Besides Amodei, others questioning SJR2 included John Wagner of the Independent American Party of Nevada, who said the current system of electing state judges works and people should keep that right “irregardless of what any panel says.”