Attacks on judicial independence are becoming more frequent and more partisan. The current effort to impeach the entire West Virginia Supreme Court, while not unprecedented, is taking place against a backdrop of political attacks against judges elsewhere. “There’s a kind of a war going on between the legislatures and the courts,” says Chris Bonneau, a political scientist at the University of Pittsburgh. “Absolutely, we’re seeing a new environment.” The West Virginia House last month voted to impeach all the sitting justices on the state Supreme Court. The state Senate is set to begin its impeachment trial Tuesday. There were legitimate reasons for legislators to go after justices, or at least some of them.
Nevada: Backers of state Senate recalls file last-chance appeal, likely heads to state Supreme Court | The Nevada Independent
Backers of groups attempting to recall two Democratic state senators are moving to appeal a court decision that found their efforts failed to gain enough signatures to qualify for a special election, likely sending the case to the state Supreme Court. The two political action committees seeking to qualify a recall effort against state Sens. Nicole Cannizzaro and Joyce Woodhouse on Tuesday filed a notice of intent to appeal an April decision by District Court Judge Jerry Wiese that neither recall petition had enough signatures to qualify for a special recall election, after the removal of several blocks of invalid signatures. The appeal is a last-chance effort for backers of the recall efforts, which were launched 10 months ago and need a favorable ruling from the state’s highest court to continue moving forward.
California: Fate of Judge Persky, symbol within #MeToo movement, heads to voters | San Francisco Chronicle
No California judge has been recalled from office since 1932, when Los Angeles voters removed three Superior Court judges accused of taking kickbacks. None has been recalled because of an unpopular ruling since 1913, when San Franciscans ousted a judge who had set a low bail for a man charged with sexual assault. But history may not provide much shelter for Aaron Persky, a Santa Clara County Superior Court judge who faces a June 5 recall vote primarily because of a single decision: the six-month sentence he issued two years ago to former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner, convicted of attempted rape and two other felonies for sexually penetrating a drunk and unconscious woman outside a fraternity party in January 2015. Furor over the sentencing spread nationwide, fueled by a heart-wrenching courtroom statement from Turner’s victim and the widespread view that Persky, swayed by his own background as a former Stanford athlete, had let Turner off far too lightly.
Nevada: State Senate recall battle makes first stop in court; initial decision could come mid-February | The Nevada Independent
Arguments over the high stakes effort to recall two Democratic state Senators — and possibly flip control of Carson City’s upper house — came to court for the first time on Wednesday, but a decision is unlikely to emerge until later this month. The four-hour hearing ended with no clear indication on how District Court Judge Jerry Wiese — who asked only a handful of questions during the hearing — would rule on the case. But it provided a preview from attorney Marc Elias (a prominent national Democratic attorney) and Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison, arguing the case through his private law practice, of the first of many legal arguments set to play out before any special recall election can be called.
Democrats filed a lawsuit Wednesday in hopes of stopping a special election that could oust an incumbent Democratic state senator, claiming election officials failed to follow the law and that the effort is well short of the needed signatures. The move was an expected response after the Nevada Secretary of State’s office last week deemed that the recall effort against Cannizzaro could move forward to a special election after skimming by the needed tally by just 43 signatures. The lawsuit, filed in Clark County District Court, argues that the Secretary of State’s office and Clark County Registrar of voters failed to verify all the submitted signatures, and said both “have completely and inexplicably” ignored the law regarding the state recall process.
An effort to recall Democratic state Sen. Nicole Cannizzaro has enough signatures to continue, the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office said Tuesday. The petition to recall Cannizzaro gathered 15,018 valid signatures — clearing the 14,975 threshold, according to a notice of sufficiency the Secretary of State’s Office issued Tuesday to Clark County Registrar Joseph Gloria. Opponents have five business days to challenge the legal sufficiency of the recall, Deputy Secretary for Elections Wayne Thorley said. If legal challenges are unsuccessful, a special election will be scheduled.
With their Democratic supermajority potentially in peril, California state legislators passed a law earlier this year that lengthened the timeline for the state to officially certify a recall election. Now their efforts may give Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton, a better shot of surviving a GOP coup. Since Secretary of State Alex Padilla did not certify the voter signatures collected to recall Newman 180 days before the June 5, 2018 primary, Gov. Jerry Brown can opt to add the recall to the primary ballot instead of establishing a special election. The 180-day deadline expired last week. Voter turnout is typically higher for regularly scheduled elections than special elections, which may give Newman better odds at the ballot box.
The recall effort against three state senators is tied up in a couple of court battles. First an update: The effort against State Senator Patricia Farley has failed, as the petitioners didn’t get enough signatures. Enough signatures – roughly 17,500 – were gathered to force State Senator Joyce Woodhouse into a recall election. But she and her attorneys say about 5,500 of those signatures are invalid. A state lawsuit has been filed on this issue. Bradley Schrager is an attorney who filed two lawsuits on behalf of Woodhouse and some of her voters to stop the recall.
Nevada: After losing control a year ago, Nevada GOP is trying to flip state senate through unexplained recall process | The Washington Post
Republicans here in the suburban desert have begun recall campaigns against three Democratic state senators without giving an official cause, raising concerns nationally that they are using recalls to give the GOP the power to redraw legislative district lines after the 2020 elections. The recall campaigns, which are being challenged in court beginning Wednesday, target state senators who represent politically divided middle-class neighborhoods. The coordinated efforts began less than a year after the senators won election to four-year terms and rely on a Nevada law that allows voters to recall state officials without stating a reason. The campaign has drawn allegations from Democrats — and at least one high-ranking Republican, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval — that a provision designed to help voters hold elected officials accountable is being used to advance partisan goals. If successful, the test here could provide a model for other states that also allow recalls without any allegations of malfeasance.
Nevada: State, county election officials say Democratic challenge to recalls should be tossed | The Nevada Independent
Clark County and Nevada election officials are asking a federal court judge to deny or throw out a preliminary stay of special Republican-backed recall elections targeting two state senators. In several filings submitted Thursday in a Las Vegas federal court, attorneys for Clark County Registrar of Voters Joe Gloria and Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske sharply criticized arguments made by Democratic attorneys seeking to block special elections of the targeted state senators — Democrats Joyce Woodhouse and Nicole Cannizzaro. An effort to recall Independent Sen. Patricia Farley fell short last week.
As Republican-backed recalls targeting a trio of Nevada state senators near the end of the signature-gathering period, Democrats are asking a federal court to halt the efforts before any special elections can be held. And while Democrats take the recall challenge to court, Republicans have accused anti-recall petitioners of using dirty tactics. Marc Elias, a prominent Democratic Party attorney who served as general counsel to former presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, and Bradley Schrager, former counsel for the Nevada Democratic Party, filed a request for a preliminary injunction in federal court in Las Vegas on Monday night asking the judge to stop the efforts to to oust state Sens. Joyce Woodhouse, D-Henderson, Patricia Farley, I-Las Vegas, and Nicole Cannizzarro, D-Las Vegas. The motion asked the court to hold an expedited hearing before Nov. 30.
Nevada: Democrats ask federal court to block recall efforts against trio of state senators | The Nevada Independent
Nevada Democrats are asking a federal court to block recall efforts targeting three state senators before a special election can be scheduled. The request for a preliminary injunction was filed late Monday in a Las Vegas federal court by Marc Elias, a prominent national attorney who served as Hillary Clinton’s general counsel during the 2016 election, and Bradley Schrager, the former attorney for the Nevada State Democratic Party. The filing — which largely echoes language in the first lawsuit filed by Elias and Nevada Democrats in mid-October against state election officials — requests that the court sets an expedited schedule with time for hearing and ruling on granting the injunction before Nov. 30 — before a recall special election could be held. The request argues that holding the recall elections under the present set of circumstances, the use of Nevada’s recall law against the senators would “burden, abridge, and deny the fundamental right to vote” for voters in the three state Senate districts.
California Democrats fell far short of collecting enough signatures to prevent a recall election of state Sen. Josh Newman, a vulnerable Democrat targeted by Republicans over his vote to increase the gas tax. Under a rule change rushed through the Legislature by Democrats this year, voters who signed a petition supporting a recall election were given a chance to remove their signatures, which Democrats argued were gathered by Republicans who used deceptive methods. Democrats needed roughly 7,000 signature withdrawals to halt the recall. They garnered just 846, the Secretary of State’s office said Wednesday.
A federal lawsuit challenging petitions to recall three Nevada state senators in districts with significant Hispanic and African-American populations alleges the effort is an unconstitutional attempt to replace the legislators with Republicans in violation of the U.S. Voting Rights Act. The suit filed Monday in U.S. District Court also seeks to strike down Nevada’s recall laws, which do not require any cause or justification for a recall as long as the petition has signatures from 25 percent of voters in the previous election. Recall petitions were launched in August against Democratic Sens. Joyce Woodhouse of Henderson and Nicole Cannizzaro of Las Vegas, and Sen. Patricia Farley, a former Las Vegas Republican-turned-independent.
Senate Democrats have put forward another bill to boost the political prospects of embattled state Sen. Josh Newman, the target of a well-funded recall effort on the verge of qualifying for the ballot. The effort to oust Newman, D-Fullerton, began soon after his April 6 vote for a road-funding plan that will raise taxes on gas and diesel fuel and increase vehicle fees by billions of dollars. Newman, who represents an area that has long had Republican representation, won election last fall by just 2,498 votes. Kicking him out would eliminate Democrats’ two-thirds edge in the Senate – and the ability to raise taxes and put constitutional amendments on the ballot without GOP support.
California Democrats started a new legislative push Monday to change recall election rules in an effort to protect one of their own after a court put an earlier attempt to slow the recall process on hold. A measure introduced Monday would help state Sen. Josh Newman of Fullerton, who is facing a recall attempt backed by Republicans over his support for a gas tax increase. If they succeed in replacing Newman with a Republican, Democrats would lose their supermajority that allows them to raise taxes without GOP votes. Election officials in three counties reported Friday that they’ve verified enough signatures for the recall to proceed. State law gives Secretary of State Alex Padilla 10 days to certify them. Republicans are pushing to hold a recall election shortly after the gas tax rises Nov. 1.
A California law that aims to delay a recall election targeting a Democratic senator will remain on hold while judges determine whether it’s legal, a state appellate ruled Monday. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and several activists filed a lawsuit last month saying Democratic legislators violated the California constitution when they changed the state’s recall election law to draw out the process for removing lawmakers from office. The association, the California Republican Party and others are looking to remove Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton, from office over his vote for a gas tax increase earlier this year. They challenged new recall rules that give people time to rescind their signature from recall petitions, among other changes. It would likely delay the recall into 2018 and possibly align it with the statewide primary when turnout is higher and potentially friendlier to Newman.
Less than a week has passed since Gov. Jim Justice switched his registration to the Republican Party, and one state Senate Democrat is already thinking about the path to a recall vote. Sen. Richard Ojeda, D-Logan, is drumming up support for a bill he wants to introduce in the next legislative session that would give citizens power to vote officials out of office during their term. “This isn’t a Republican-against-Democrat bill,” Ojeda said. “This is basically saying that any elected official in the state of West Virginia who is not living up to their promises and doing right by the people, the people should have a right to fire them. We always say that we work for you, the people. Well, if we work for the people, the people should have a right to fire us.”
Wisconsin: Democrats’ short-lived 2012 recall victory led to key evidence in partisan gerrymandering case | Capital Times
By most accounts, the 2011 and 2012 gubernatorial and Senate recall elections were a complete disaster for Wisconsin Democrats. Gov. Scott Walker’s historic victory boosted his fundraising and re-election prospects. The recall petition became a litmus test for party loyalty. And though Democrats recaptured the Senate majority in June 2012, they lost it five months later and have been shut out of state government ever since. But some Democrats see a silver lining in the recalls that has gone mostly unnoticed until now: The unearthing of key evidence in a potentially landmark legislative redistricting case now before the U.S. Supreme Court.
California: A new suit says lawmakers broke the law when they changed California’s recall election rules | Los Angeles Times
Republican activists and an anti-tax organization filed a lawsuit Thursday to scrap a new law that revised the rules for California’s recall elections, accusing Democrats of a blatant attempt to help an embattled state senator keep his job. The court challenge to the law, enacted as part of last month’s new state budget, comes after critics of state Sen. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) submitted some 85,000 voter signatures to force a special election on whether he should be removed from office. “For them to come in and try to pass a law undercutting a legitimate exercise of direct democracy, we feel that the court’s not going to like that very much,” said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn., one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
Democrats are pushing late-blooming bills to significantly improve state Sen. Josh Newman’s odds of surviving an effort by the state GOP and others to recall him from office. The proposed changes, which became public Monday morning, would add months to the existing timeline of certifying a recall election for the ballot. The measure would virtually assure that any recall election would be held at the regularly scheduled June 5, 2018 legislative primary election. Regular election turnout historically is much higher than turnout for special elections, which helps Democrats. The effort to recall Newman, D-Fullerton, began soon after his April 6 vote for a road-funding plan that will raise taxes on gas and diesel and vehicle fees by billions of dollars. Newman, who represents an area that has long had Republican representation, won election last fall by just 2,498 votes.
California Democrats moved Monday to change the rules governing recall elections, potentially hampering the campaign to remove a Democratic state senator from office. Under the proposal, people who sign a recall petition would have 30 days to rescind their signatures after they have been submitted to election officials. It would also give lawmakers an additional 30 days to weigh in on how much a recall election would cost. It was introduced Monday as part of a budget bill in an effort to protect Democratic Sen. Josh Newman of Fullerton, who is facing a recall effort over his vote to increase the gas tax. Democrats will lose their supermajority in the Senate if Newman is recalled.
California: Democrats seek a change in California recall elections, and it could help an embattled state senator | Los Angeles Times
State Senate Democrats introduced legislation Monday to change the rules governing recall elections to remove a lawmaker from office, potentially helping one of their own survive an effort now underway in Southern California. The proposal, contained in one of the bills enacting a new state budget, comes after backers of an effort to remove state Sen. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) from office have submitted more than 31,000 voter signatures to trigger a special election. “Recalls are designed to be extraordinary events in response to extraordinary circumstances – and it’s in the public’s overwhelming interest to ensure the security, integrity and legitimacy of the qualification process,” said Jonathan Underland, a spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles).
Lawmakers in the state House overwhelmingly approved House Bill 272 on Wednesday (May 10) that makes it easier to recall an elected official from office. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Paul Hollis, R-Covington, now moves to the Senate for further consideration. “My belief is that we need to enact this immediately and across the board,” Hollis said, in response to a question from Rep. Joe Stagni, R-Kenner, about delaying implementation if the bill becomes law. Following a debate that lasted about 10 minutes and an added amendment requiring recall organizers to state the reason for targeting an election official for removal, House members voted 70 to 27 in support of the bill.
Motivated by recent failures to recall Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni and former St. Tammany Parish Coroner Peter Galvan, a lawmaker says he’s filing a bill Thursday to reduce the threshold for petition signatures that must be collected to get a recall election on the ballot. State Rep. Paul Hollis, R-Covington, said he believes both houses of the Legislature will support his proposal when the session starts April 10 and will support the need to ease requirements under the state’s recall law, which he called the most onerous in the country. “I look at Louisiana compared to all the other states that allow for recalls and Louisiana’s threshold is by far the highest requirement and I certainly don’t want it to be the lowest and likewise I don’t want it to be easy, I just want it to be possible.”
Leaders of Venezuela’s opposition on Friday angrily called on citizens to take to the streets after the country’s electoral commission suspended a drive for a referendum to remove President Nicolás Maduro. Speaking to a packed news conference, Henrique Capriles, a two-time presidential candidate, described the commission’s decision as a “coup” intended to keep Mr. Maduro in power. “We warned that this could happen, and this is exactly what we wanted to avoid with the referendum,” Mr. Capriles said. “This only deepens the crisis that Venezuelans are living through.” The battle over the recall movement appeared to escalate the conflict between the opposition and Mr. Maduro’s leftist government. Although the opposition controls the country’s congress, Mr. Maduro and his allies dominate all the other institutions of government, including the courts and the electoral commission. Mr. Maduro, blamed by many Venezuelans for the country’s economic collapse, has described the recall effort as a coup attempt.
Election officials on Wednesday quashed the opposition’s hope of holding a recall referendum that could wrest Venezuela’s presidency from the ruling socialist party. Officials said a national vote on removing President Nicolas Maduro could take place if the opposition gathers enough signatures over the course of three days at the end of October, but add that a referendum would be held in the first quarter of 2017. That timing is crucial. A successful vote to oust Maduro this year would trigger a presidential election and give the opposition a shot at winning power. If Maduro were to be voted out in 2017, though, his vice president would finish the presidential term, leaving the socialists in charge. With Venezuela’s economy in crisis, with soaring inflation and widespread shortages, polls say a majority of Venezuelans want Maduro gone.
Venezuela: Huge crowds march in Venezuela to force recall of President Nicolás Maduro | The Washington Post
Tens of thousands of chanting protesters marched Thursday in a major demonstration in the Venezuelan capital aimed at forcing a vote on recalling socialist President Nicolás Maduro. Opposition parties hailed the protest, dubbed the “Taking of Caracas,” as the beginning of a new stage in their struggle to end the “revolution” started in 1999 by Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chávez. Maduro’s popularity has plunged as the economy of this oil-rich country has sharply contracted and hunger has grown widespread. The government, clearly nervous, arrested several prominent opposition activists in the days leading up to the protest and barred at least six foreign journalists from entering the country, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Fearing violence, downtown shops closed, and police in yellow vests took up positions around the city. But the demonstration had an upbeat note, with participants dancing and joking, even as their chants reflected growing frustration with the government. “There’s no eggs, there’s no chicken, there’s nothing here,” one group yelled. Others shouted: “It’s going to fall, it’s going to fall, the government is going to fall.”
Venezuela’s opposition got a green light Monday to proceed with efforts to remove President Nicolas Maduro in a referendum, but the crumpling oil giant still appeared far from holding a vote. The National Electoral Council (CNE) said the opposition had collected nearly double the requirement of 200,000 valid signatures on a petition demanding the leftist leader face a recall referendum. But it did not set a date for the next stage in the lengthy process, in which the opposition must collect four million signatures in just three days. And, in a boost to the Maduro camp’s claims of rampant fraud, the council’s chief, Tibisay Lucena, said the authorities had detected more than 1,000 apparently fraudulent signatures.
Venezuela’s election board said on Monday the opposition successfully collected 1 percent of voter signatures in every state in the first phase of their push for a referendum to recall socialist President Nicolas Maduro. But council head Tibisay Lucena asked for a judicial probe into some apparent cases of voter identity fraud, and did not name a date for the next phase, to collect 20 percent of signatures. The timing is crucial because if Maduro were to lose a referendum this year, as polls indicate he would due to an economic crisis, that would trigger a new presidential vote, giving the opposition a chance to end 17 years of socialism. But should he lose a referendum next year, Maduro, 53, would be replaced by his vice president, maintaining the Socialist Party in power until the OPEC nation’s next presidential election scheduled for the end of 2018.