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Quality Judges

The Quality Judges Initiative serves to advance empirically informed models for choosing, evaluating and retaining judges that preserve impartiality and accountability in the civil justice system.

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Attention in Tennessee—and Around the Country—Turns to Court-Related Ballot Measures

Malia Reddick Posted in Quality Judges

On August 7, three Tennessee Supreme Court justices withstood a well-funded challenge to their retention on the bench for subsequent terms. Tennesseans are now looking ahead to November 4, when voters will decide whether to adopt a modified federal selection process for the state’s appellate judges. Voters in four other states will also weigh in on proposed constitutional amendments affecting judicial selection and tenure.

IAALS Champion, Judge Steve Leben, to Receive 2014 Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence

Natalie Anne Knowlton Posted in Featured, News, Quality Judges, Rule One

IAALS would like to congratulate Kansas Court of Appeals Judge Steve Leben on being named the 2014 recipient of the William H. Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence. The National Center for State Courts Rehnquist award is presented annually to a state court judge who embodies judicial excellence, integrity, fairness, and professional ethics. Judge Leben is a close friend of IAALS, and his impact has been felt across much of our work.

Choosing Judges: Judicial Nominating Commissions and the Selection of Supreme Court Justices

Malia Reddick Posted in Featured, Informed Opinions, Quality Judges

We are pleased to announce the release of a new report on the judicial nominating commissions used to select supreme court justices in 30 states and Washington, D.C. With Choosing Judges, we examine why judicial nominating commissions are established in the first place, how their structure and operation differ across the nation, and what some of the best practices might be in building public trust in the process.

New Mexico’s Hybrid Judicial Selection Process Comes Under Scrutiny

Malia Reddick Posted in Quality Judges

New Mexico judges are chosen through a process that is truly unique. Since 1988, judicial vacancies have been filled by commission-based appointment. Appointees then face a partisan election to keep their seats. At the conclusion of their terms, judges stand for retention for subsequent terms. This year, five judges waited until after the filing deadline to announce their retirement, exemplifying what some see as an increasing trend by judges and party leaders to try to influence judicial selections.

Pace of Pro- and Anti-Retention Ads Picks Up in Tennessee

Malia Reddick Posted in Quality Judges

With Tennessee’s August 7 judicial retention elections just over two weeks away, the TV ad war is escalating. According to the latest figures, the Tennessee Forum has spent nearly $120,000 on an anti-retention TV ad, while campaigns supporting the justices’ retention have spent just over $200,000 on television advertising.

Toward Impartial and Accountable Judges

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor Posted in Featured, Informed Opinions, Quality Judges

In recent years, I have been distressed to see persistent efforts in some states to politicize the bench and the role of our judges. Working closely with IAALS and its Quality Judges Initiative, we have collaborated to promote processes for selecting and retaining state judges that inspire public trust in our courts and the integrity of their decisions. Today, I am pleased to share with you the O’Connor Judicial Selection Plan—our recommendations for protecting and strengthening the courts.

Procedural Justice: Public Perception of Court and Legal System Legitimacy

Riley Combelic Posted in Quality Judges, Rule One

Why do you obey the law? Because you are afraid of the consequences if you don’t? Or perhaps because it is the right thing to do? How about, because you believe that “government has the right to dictate to [you] proper behavior”? The third option—believing that government’s laws and legal process have legitimacy—may be the keystone to building the most effective legal system.

Russell Wheeler Makes a Case for Caution on Federal Judicial Confirmations

Malia Reddick Posted in Quality Judges

Recent national media coverage paints a highly positive picture of the current pace of federal judicial nominations and confirmations. After all, 2014 has seen 50 confirmations so far, compared to 43 in all of 2013 and 48 in 2012. Not so fast, says Russell Wheeler, an IAALS Board Member and Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution. The outlook has improved, but according to Wheeler, a case can be made for a more cautious assessment.

Voter Education Effort Featuring Justice O’Connor Wins Emmy Award

Malia Reddick Posted in News, Quality Judges

Developed as part of the “Informed Voters – Fair Judges” project, a voter education effort led by the National Association of Women Judges, a short film featuring retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor has received an Emmy Award in the Public Service Announcement category from the National Capital Chesapeake Bay Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Federal Judge Okays Ohio’s Unusual System for Electing Judges

Malia Reddick Posted in Quality Judges

A federal judge has upheld the unusual system that Ohio uses to elect its judges, which features partisan primary elections and a nonpartisan general election. The challenge to the Ohio system was first filed in 2010 by the Ohio Democratic Party, three judicial candidates, and a public employees union, who claimed that not allowing judicial candidates to run with party labels violated their First Amendment rights.

In a Deal with Democrats, Governor Christie Re-Nominates State’s Chief Justice

Malia Reddick Posted in Quality Judges

Ending months of speculation, Governor Chris Christie re-nominated Chief Justice Stuart Rabner to the New Jersey Supreme Court. The move was part of a political compromise with senate leadership, which agreed in exchange to support the nomination of a Christie ally to the supreme court. The deal between Governor Christie, a Republican, and Democrats in the senate will fill one of two seats on a court that has had two vacancies since early 2012.

Tennessee Justices Launch Retention Campaign with Bar Support

Malia Reddick Posted in Quality Judges

As the burgeoning campaign in opposition to the retention of the three Tennessee justices continues, those justices are responding with their own campaign. They recently gave an interview to a local news outlet in which they discussed the threat that the retention challenge poses to judicial independence. The Tennessee and Nashville bar associations have both entered the fray as well.

Judicial Independence on the Brink: Lessons from Oklahoma

Rebecca Love Kourlis Posted in Featured, Informed Opinions, Quality Judges

Judicial independence is like freedom in that it is often taken for granted, and always at risk. Simply stated, judicial independence means that one branch of government is not subject to the will of the majority. That independent branch is charged with upholding the Constitution, even in the face of contrary majority will, and with protecting the rights of those not in power. What happens when judicial independence is threatened? We have a current all-too-disturbing example.

Judicial Impeachment Threat Looms in Oklahoma

Malia Reddick Posted in Quality Judges

Inter-branch tensions in Oklahoma have escalated in recent days over the state supreme court’s handling of a death penalty appeal. A member of Oklahoma’s house of representatives filed articles of impeachment against five supreme court justices who voted to stay the execution of two death row inmates. Tension was already brewing between the legislature and the high court over a 2013 decision that struck down a comprehensive lawsuit reform measure.

Alabama Adopts New Judicial Recusal Law

Malia Reddick Posted in Quality Judges

Last week, the Alabama legislature passed a new law that addresses judicial disqualification in cases involving campaign contributors. The state is an ideal target for recusal reform. From 2000-2009, Alabama ranked first in the nation in campaign fundraising and spending for state supreme court races. The 2006 cycle alone saw $14.5 million in contributions and expenditures.

North Carolina’s 2014 Supreme Court Election Is One to Watch

Malia Reddick Posted in Quality Judges

Four of the seven seats on the North Carolina Supreme Court are on the ballot in November. The current ideological balance on the court is 4-3, with a Republican majority, and three of the four seats up for election are currently held by Democrats. Commentators anticipate millions of dollars in special interest spending in the coming months.