Oregon Group Examines Changing Trends in Election of Judges

Article excerpt

In April 2012, then Oregon Chief Justice Paul J. De Muniz proposed that the Oregon Law Commission review the state's law relating to the selection and retention of appellate judges. The Commission, which is the state's nonpartisan law revision commission, housed at and staffed by Willamette University College of Law across the street from the Oregon State Capitol, approved Justice De Muniz's proposal and formed the Appellate Judicial Selection Work Group, composed of judges, lawyers, legislators, public officials, lobbyists, and public members who have been meeting regularly to study how Oregon and other states select and retain appellate judges.

After studying perceived problems and concerns, the group plans to recommend whether Oregon's present method of selecting and retaining appellate judges should be changed or amended. Justice De Muniz, who chairs the Work Group, hopes it will be ready to present any recommendations to the Legislative Assembly in time for the 2013 legislative session. Most reform ideas would require state constitutional changes, and thus the Work Group would likely need to recommend to the Assembly a bill that would refer an amendment to the voters.

The Work Group is currently considering various proposals, including a recent recommendation from Justice De Muniz for a new merit selection system without the retention election component that is often coupled with merit selection. Instead, Justice De Muniz recommends that a new state judicial nominating commission evaluate appellate judges and then make retention determinations. Oregon presently uses nonpartisan elections for selection of appellate judges except when there is a mid-term vacancy, in which case the governor appoints a replacement. …