To Appoint or To Reappoint, That is the Question
One of the restrictions on membership on Rhode Island’s Judicial Nomination Commission, part of the system intended to provide for merit selection of judges in Rhode Island, is this…
No member shall be reappointed to the commission.Governor Donald Carcieri wants to interpret this law as prohibiting only sitting members of the commission from being reappointed to consecutive terms, and reappoint someone (C. June Tow) who already served a previous term between 1998 and 2002. Senator James Sheehan (D-Narragansett/North Kingstown) argues in today’s Projo that this interpretation of the law is absurd, as it would mean that the same group of people could be reappointed to the commission ad infinitum, as long as they took some time off between terms. Senator Sheehan has asked the Attorney General for an advisory opinion on the issue.
Jon Pincince of RI Law Journal has an analysis of how the legislature’s intent probably was to bar anyone from serving more than one term, but that the letter of the law does allow room for either interpretation. (Obviously, the RI Legislature needs more practice in writing effective reform laws!)
Though I am skeptical of relying too heavily on “legislative intent” arguments, which are not applied with consistency, with all of the other major problems that Rhode Island is facing, I don’t see fighting this battle as a great use of the Governor’s political capital.