Republican lawmakers who have been unhappy with the state’s system of traveling, statewide special superior court judges won a partial victory in the new budget by eliminating or redefining one-third of the positions.
There are currently 15 of the judges, three of whom handle only business cases. Four of the other 12 judges will not be replaced once they retire or resign or leave for some other reason.
The positions of the first two judges scheduled for retirement will be converted to handle only business court matters. The terms of four judges are set to end on April 29, 2015; Oct. 20, 2015; and Dec. 31, 2017.
The governor will nominate replacements in consultation with the chief justice of the state Supreme Court, to make sure they are qualified to handle complex business cases, and the General Assembly will have the final say. If the governor doesn’t act within 90 days of a vacancy, then the House and Senate leaders will submit names to the full legislature. They will serve five-year terms.
A bill introduced this session would have eliminated all the positions once the judges leave office, but it went nowhere. Last year, the Senate GOP leadership tried to eliminate all the special superior court judges at once – except for the business court judges – but ran afoul of separation-of-powers concerns and other objections.
The special judges hear cases throughout the state. Some conservative lawmakers think that makes them less answerable to local communities, as the rest of the state’s superior court judges are elected in districts.