Header, the Administration of the Honorable Lincoln C. Almond
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July 13, 2000


In accordance with the provisions of R.I. Gen. Laws § 43-1-4, I am transmitting herewith, with my disapproval, OO-S-2481, "An Act Relating to Judicial Selection."

This bill would change the time period within which the House and/or the Senate must consider judicial appointments made by the Governor. When the Legislature is not in session or a session ends, this bill would toll or extend the time for consideration to an open-ended period potentially not commencing until the first Tuesday of the subsequent January. Depending upon when the General Assembly went out of session in a given year, the period for legislative advice and consent could extend to seven months or more. In addition, during this time, this bill would eliminate the Governor's existing power to fill a vacancy until the General Assembly next convened to provide advice and consent.

Rhode Island's judicial merit selection statute was a product of global agreement and compromise among many interested parties, including the Governor, the House and the Senate. This bill is not the product of any such agreement and is wholly unnecessary. It would drastically alter that enacted law in a way harmful to an expeditious judicial merit selection process. I vetoed this same bill last year but allowed 99-H 5564 to become law. That bill doubled the time for House and Senate consideration of all judicial nominees. Instead of 28 or 30 days, the new law allowed the House and the Senate up to 60 days to consider all judicial nominations. This change (in conjunction with additional rime for the Judicial Nominating Commission to nominate and the Governor to appoint) was a product of broad consensus by those in support of merit selection. The legislature certainly is entitled to a reasonable time to perform its constitutionally-mandated advice and consent role. Last year's law establishing a 60-day window meets that need. Moreover, there has been no indication over the last year that a further extension of the statutory time frame is warranted.

The potential additional delay in the selection process that could result from this bill would come on top of a several month period within which the Judicial Nominating Commission screens applicants and the Governor personally interviews and nominates one. In sum, a scenario whereby a judicial vacancy remained for a period of 18 months is a distinct possibility. Such an extraordinarily long vacancy would be contrary to expeditious merit selection and would negatively impact our judiciary. Compounding that delay is the bill's elimination of the Governor's power to make an interim appointment while the General Assembly is out of session.

For the foregoing reasons, I disapprove of this legislation and respectfully urge your support of this veto.


Lincoln Almond