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4/17/2018 Magistrates would be appointed through merit selection process under Sen. Sheehan bill
STATE HOUSE — The Senate Judiciary Committee last week heard testimony on legislation introduced by Sen. James C. Sheehan (D-Dist. 36, Narragansett, North Kingstown) that would extend the merit selection process used for judges to the state’s magistrates..

The bill (2018-S 2611) would vest with the governor the sole authority to nominate, on the basis of merit, from a list submitted by the Judicial Nominating Commission with the advice and consent of the Senate, all judges and magistrates, to all courts.

“When Rhode Island amended its constitution in 1994 to create the merit selection process for selecting judges, it was a bold and innovative step,” said Senator Sheehan. “At that time, there were no magistrates, but since then, 20 have been appointed and more are on the way. This would update the law so that magistrates would have to be appointed using that same merit selection process. It would remove the veil on the current process and bring it the level of transparency that we’ve come to expect in the appointment of judges.”

The nine-member Judicial Nominating Commission solicits applications for vacancies, screens the applicants, conducts public interviews, and takes public testimony before selecting a list of finalists.

“We thank Senator Sheehan for putting this bill in,” John Marion, executive director of Common Cause Rhode Island, told the committee. “We strongly support the idea of judicial magistrates being appointed through the merit selection process. Judges and magistrates are almost indistinguishable in their roles.”

The legislation is cosponsored by Senators Harold M. Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence), Ana B. Quezada (D-Dist. 2, Providence), Marc A. Cote (D-Dist. 24, Woonsocket, North Smithfield), and James A. Seveney (D-Dist. 11, Bristol, Portsmouth, Tiverton). 

Similar legislation (2018-H 7720) has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Jeremiah T. O’Grady (D-Dist. 46, Lincoln, Pawtucket).

For more information, contact:
Daniel Trafford, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903