Bill Description: House Bill 782 would make public some records related to selecting judges and would lessen the possibility of “stacking” the list of nominees by the Judicial Council.
Does it in any way restrict public access to information related to government activity or otherwise compromise government transparency, accountability, or election integrity? Conversely, does it increase public access to information related to government activity or increase government transparency, accountability, or election integrity?
This legislation would open to public scrutiny certain records not presently available about judicial candidates. The bill would require that the judicial council’s ratings of candidates for a judicial vacancy be made public. The bill also allows judicial candidates, if they wish, to review the confidential information the council receives (often from other attorneys) regarding their application for a judicial vacancy.
The bill also requires the council to supply to the governor a report “summarizing the factors considered in including each person on the list” of judicial nominees for him to consider. The report to the governor would also be public.
Analyst Note: This legislation also would change state law so that the governor may reject the list of three candidates submitted to him for a judicial vacancy. If the governor rejects the list, this would compel the Judicial Council to submit a new list of potential nominees. The purpose of that change is to prevent the council from “stacking” its list so that the governor is forced to select from candidates that all have the same attributes. There are some benefits to this policy outcome. But there are some concerns, such as, for example, the governor then has more power over the judicial selection process. It is important to remember that, as the governor is the elected head of the executive branch, he arguably should have more say than that of the unelected Judicial Council.
The bill also makes adjustments to judicial salaries, which, historically, have not been addressed in our Freedom Index analysis, and are not addressed here.