By Tim Leeds 

Hansen supports proposal to elect Supreme Court justices from districts 

 


Hansen supports proposal to elect Supreme Court justices from districts

Tim Leeds

A bill that would change the way Supreme Court justices are chosen has the support of state Rep. Kris Hansen, R-Havre.

Hansen is a member of the House Judiciary Committee which is studying the proposal.

Senate Bill 268, sponsored by Sen. Joe Balyeat, R-Bozeman, would place a referendum on the 2012 ballot. The proposal splits the state into seven districts, similar to the way representation by district is set up for the Public Service Commission. A judge must reside in the district for the seat up for election, with each justice selected from the separate districts.


"I am excited about it because I think it will give local voters a much greater opportunity to know who their justice candidates are, " Hansen told the Havre Daily News Thursday. "I am very interested in legislation that gets the voters more information and accurate information. "


The bill would not remove any sitting justices. When each justice's term expires, candidates for the position would have to be from the districts.

Hansen said that while she was campaigning last year, many voters asked her about the candidates for the Supreme Court. Most did not know anything about candidates Nels Swandal of Livingston and Beth Baker of Helena, and were asking her about those candidates, she said.


Baker won that election, 164,626 to 148,880.

"Currently, the voters are pretty much stuck with trusting whatever TV ads or newspaper ads the candidate might run in their local area, and in rural areas, that might not be very many ads, " Hansen said. "If the voters pass this bill, the Supreme Court justice they elect will come from an area closer to home. "


Hansen said if the voters pass the referendum, it would mean candidates are from closer to home, and voters would know more about their reputations. The candidates also would be able to do more campaigning in the district, at a lower expense, she said.

The bill passed the Senate 30-20, with two Democrats crossing party lines in support, Hansen said.

She added that the proposal has the support of the United Property Owners of Montana, while the State Bar Association, the ACLU, the Trial Lawyers Association and two Helena attorneys spoke in opposition.

She said another bill she supports, House Bill 310, also would make information more understandable. The bill was passed by the House 98-0 Feb. 18 and has been referred to committee in the Senate.

Under the bill, sponsored by Rep. Joanne Blyton, R-Joliet, ballot proposals would have to have a statement as well as implication — the current language says it must have a statement of implication — and that for and against statements must indicate that a vote for the proposal indicates support for it and a vote against it indicates opposition.



The wording of some ballot issues in recent elections made voting for a proposal seemed to indicate opposition to a program or idea.

"Instead of having tricky language on a ballot initiative question, the ballot initiative question would simply require a 'yes' or a 'no, '" Hansen said. "Then voters don't have to figure out if they vote 'for' an issue if that means they like the initiative or they don't like it. "



A bill that would change the way Supreme Court justices are chosen has the support of state Rep. Kris Hansen, R-Havre.

Hansen is a member of the House Judiciary Committee which is studying the proposal.

Senate Bill 268, sponsored by Sen. Joe Balyeat, R-Bozeman, would place a referendum on the 2012 ballot. The proposal splits the state into seven districts, similar to the way representation by district is set up for the Public Service Commission. A judge must reside in the district for the seat up for election, with each justice selected from the separate districts.

"I am excited about it because I think it will give local voters a much greater opportunity to know who their justice candidates are, " Hansen told the Havre Daily News Thursday. "I am very interested in legislation that gets the voters more information and accurate information. "

The bill would not remove any sitting justices. When each justice's term expires, candidates for the position would have to be from the districts.

Hansen said that while she was campaigning last year, many voters asked her about the candidates for the Supreme Court. Most did not know anything about candidates Nels Swandal of Livingston and Beth Baker of Helena, and were asking her about those candidates, she said.

Baker won that election, 164,626 to 148,880.

"Currently, the voters are pretty much stuck with trusting whatever TV ads or newspaper ads the candidate might run in their local area, and in rural areas, that might not be very many ads, " Hansen said. "If the voters pass this bill, the Supreme Court justice they elect will come from an area closer to home. "

Hansen said if the voters pass the referendum, it would mean candidates are from closer to home, and voters would know more about their reputations. The candidates also would be able to do more campaigning in the district, at a lower expense, she said.

The bill passed the Senate 30-20, with two Democrats crossing party lines in support, Hansen said.

She added that the proposal has the support of the United Property Owners of Montana, while the State Bar Association, the ACLU, the Trial Lawyers Association and two Helena attorneys spoke in opposition.

She said another bill she supports, House Bill 310, also would make information more understandable. The bill was passed by the House 98-0 Feb. 18 and has been referred to committee in the Senate.

Under the bill, sponsored by Rep. Joanne Blyton, R-Joliet, ballot proposals would have to have a statement as well as implication — the current language says it must have a statement of implication — and that for and against statements must indicate that a vote for the proposal indicates support for it and a vote against it indicates opposition.

The wording of some ballot issues in recent elections made voting for a proposal seemed to indicate opposition to a program or idea.

"Instead of having tricky language on a ballot initiative question, the ballot initiative question would simply require a 'yes' or a 'no, '" Hansen said. "Then voters don't have to figure out if they vote 'for' an issue if that means they like the initiative or they don't like it. "

 

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