Way back in January, a bill was introduced that would have “restore[d] partisan statewide judicial elections.”  That is, the bill would have required Court of Appeals and Supreme Court candidates to seek their party’s nomination through a primary election, then compete in a partisan general election.  The bill stalled in committee in April, where it languished all summer.

Last week, a “committee substitute” was proposed, leaving nonpartisan races intact but requiring Court of Appeals candidates to indicate their party affiliation when filing their notices of candidacy, which affiliation will then appear on the ballot.

The bill passed both chambers on Tuesday, just before the legislative session closed.  House Bill 8 is now on the Governor’s desk for consideration.

If the bill becomes law, candidates for open Court of Appeals seats (but not Supreme Court seats) will appear on the ballot with their party affiliations next to their names.  The races will still technically be non-partisan, because there will be no intraparty primaries.  In other words, the two top candidates emerging from the primary could very well share the same party affiliation.

Time will tell whether measures like House Bill 8 and the Supreme Court retention election bill passed this summer will serve as mere tweaks to our existing non-partisan election system for appellate judges, or instead as a harbinger of a bigger shift in how we select our Morgan Street jurists.

–Matt Leerberg