Number of Trial Court Judges Going Down. Court of Appeals Judgeships? Up in the Air
The legislature this week acted on bills to reduce the number of trial court judgeships throughout the state, and although the legislation differs in a few places by a judgeship (e.g, a reduction of one judgeship rather two), the recommendations of the State Court Administrative Office, unanimously approved by the Supreme Court, look likely to land on the Governor's desk largely intact. Because the reductions will be by attrition -- that is, not take place until a sitting judge on the bench affected bench leaves the court -- the changes should not be disruptive to court operations overall. HB 5150, the first of the judgeship bills to be sent to the Governor, addresses judgeship eliminations in courts where there is already a vacancy, making it clear to prospective aspirants that the seat is not available.
What is less clear is the fate of the State Court Administrative Office recommendation, also unanimously approved by the Supreme Court, that the Court of Appeals be reduced by four judgeships. The Governor has endorsed that recommendation and has not filled the two existing vacancies on the Court, but the House-passed legislation does not reduce any Court of Appeals seats. The issue of the number of Court of Appeals judges is complicated by lack of consensus about the composition of the court's election districts. HB 5160 as passed by the House keeps the number of judgeships at the current 28. It was discharged from committee this week for action on the Senate floor, but no action was taken, and the bill will not be dealt with again until the Senate reconvenes next year.