Looking Forward: Merit Selection in 2013 and Beyond
Efforts to undo merit selection systems continued in 2013, with opponents increasingly seeking to replace merit selection with a federal-style system in which the governor nominates judges that are confirmed by the legislature. Unlike the federal system, however, these judges would not be appointed for life; they would either have to be reappointed or face periodic retention elections.
Efforts to change the selection method for Kansas Supreme Court justices faltered in the state legislature. But Kansas Governor Sam Brownback signed a bill passed in early 2013 to use federal-style selection for Court of Appeals judges in Kansas.
Meanwhile, Tennessee voters will decide in 2014 whether to adopt a federal-style system that would include periodic retention elections. Tennessee had utilized a legislatively-authorized merit selection system. However, because the Tennessee legislature allowed the state's judicial nominating commission to expire on June 30, 2013, there was continued uncertainty at the time of publication as to how to fill judicial vacancies prior to the 2014 vote.
All was not bad for merit selection, however. At the same time merit selection is on the defensive in several states, it is also being considered anew in others. At the time of publication, legislation to institute merit selection for all judicial offices in Minnesota had been introduced and subsequently passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Elections Committee, with momentum building for further advancement in 2014.