House leadership pushes committee chair to hold a hearing on judicial retention bill

A committee in the Minnesota Senate approved a proposed constitutional amendment today that would change how the state’s judges are elected.

The proposal would create a non-partisan board to review judges’ performance before they run for re-election. Using the board’s rating, voters would then decide whether the judge would keep his or her job. If a judge is rejected by voters the governor would appoint a new judge.

The measure is moving through the Minnesota Senate and DFL Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller says he thinks it has the votes to pass (You can read more about the story here).

The bigger question is where the proposal stands in the Minnesota House. The bill currently sits in the House Civil Justice Committee where it didn’t meet committee deadline. But DFL House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher is working to revive the bill. She says she’s spoken with Committee Chair Joe Mullery and told him she’s willing to wave the deadline so a hearing can be held on the proposal.

“He knows my strong preference that we want to deal with this issue fully this year,” Kelliher said.

Kelliher wouldn’t say if she’ll take additional steps if Mullery declines to hold a hearing on it. Mullery isn’t commenting on whether he’ll hold a hearing on the proposal.

“I thought it was over with,” Mullery said.

When I pointed out that Kelliher and DFL House Majority Leader Tony Sertich discussed the issue with him, Mullery declined to comment on whether he would hold a hearing.

Mullery did make one thing clear. He said he doesn’t support the proposal.

“I don’t think there’s a problem,” Mullery said. “I think our court system if very good.”

I’m told the committee has the votes to approve the proposed constitutional amendment if it gets a hearing. If the House and the Senate pass the measure it will go on the November ballot. A majority of the voters would have to approve the measure for it to be placed in the Minnesota Constitution.

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