Bill would change procedures for filling judicial vacancies

A proposed constitutional amendment providing for potential elimination of judgeships as vacancies occur won Louisiana Senate approval Monday.

The Senate voted 38-0 for the measure and a companion statutory change then shipped it to the House.

Senate Bill 216 sponsored by state Sen. Ed Murray, D-New Orleans, would change the procedures used when a judicial vacancy occurs.

Today, the governor is required to call a special election to fill the vacancy. Under the proposed change, the issue of whether the election is called is left up to the Supreme Court.

The court could recommend the vacancy be filled and the governor call an election; the abolition of the judgeship; or its moving to another location where a shortage may exist.

Murray said there is no mechanism in state law for the scrapping of judgeships.

“It’s an opportunity to have an organized system,” Murray said.

He called it “the most reasonable approach.”

State Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, described it as “fill it, kill it or move it” system.

A short time later, the Senate approved a neasure that would eliminate two of the six Orleans Parish juvenile court judgeships. Senate Bill 445 sponsor state Sen. A.G. Crowe, R-Slidell, said the judgeships are not necessary. He pointed to the savings that could results from their abolition.

Murray said the juvenile judge situation should be assessed as vacancies occur through the process outlined in his legislation.

But the Senate advanced the bill on a 34-4 vote.