Yesterday, despite the impassioned support of the state bar and of distinguished former Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Nevadans again gave an emphatic “NO” to the so-called Missouri Plan in Nevada.
Question 1 on the ballot read,“Shall the Nevada Constitution be amended to provide for the appointment of Supreme Court justices and District Court judges by the Governor for their initial terms from lists of candidates nominated by the Commission on Judicial Selection, with subsequent retention of those justices and judges after independent performance evaluations and voter approval?”
The unofficial results, as irreverently anticipated here, had Nevadans failing to answer in the affirmative. The measure lost by almost 16 percent with 57.70% against and about 42% in favor.
Teeth-gnashing in the Silver State.
Still, the hand-wringing and enamel-gnashing from bench and bar proponents can be heard across the desert terrain to here.
Agenda-driven partisans scare retention conferees.
As previously reported here, with fierce agenda-driven partisanship at such a high pitch, even nominally safe judicial retention states ruled by Lifetime-tenure-light did not remain unscathed from a restive electorate. In Iowa, for example, to show that despite the job security usually accorded judges by judicial retention elections, Iowans dismissed three justices.
But in Colorado, an effort to oust 3 state supreme court justices only succeeded in scaring the otherwise smugly complacent. The undertaking mounted by Clear the Bench went down to defeat. See Colo. Supreme Court Justices Retained and Three Colorado Supreme Court justices appear to retain seats.
Meanwhile, in the rest of the otherwise tranquil paradise known as judicial retention ‘officium tutis,’ voters bothering to even look at the scores of unknown judges up for retention, mostly voted “Yes.”
Here in Arizona’s Maricopa County, 60 judges were up for retention. You’d have to go to Cook County, Illinois with 68 judges on their November 2, 2010 ballot to find another jurisdiction with even more judges up for retention. By comparison, in Iowa, the retention ballot there had a more manageable 14.
“What a country!”
However, you do have to hand it to any intrepid voter willing to run their finger down the long lists to vote ‘yea’ or ‘nay.’ It’s to their credit if they’re able to sufficiently inform themselves beforehand to pore through scores of names they barely know 2 nickel’s worth and perform their civic duties. But I hazard to add that such desultory votes of confidence by an under-informed electorate should give any fair-minded jurist pause.
An October 22, 2010 article from Nebraska’s Lincoln Journal Star Online, Many voters unsure when it comes to judicial retention, discussed the problem of voter inattention, disinterest and reluctance to vote for people they know next to nothing about. It’s called “roll off.”
The article by Corey Matteson mentioned a 2007 study on improving the judicial retention process. It was co-authored by Nebraska Appeals Court Judge John Irwin who Matteson quoted in his story. Judge Irwin said, “Very few people can tell you — certainly they can’t tell you who judges are most of the time.”
Some voters vote ‘yes’ on every judge while others vote ‘no’ on every judge. Judge Irwin’s explanation for this is that it’s “because they don’t feel they’re in a position to make an intelligent vote.”
To which I respond by quoting the inimitable comedian Yakov Smirnoff and say, “What a country!”
For a more complete judicial election roundup from around the U.S., see LegalNewsline: Election roundup.