“Case preview: Justices to consider Delaware rules on bipartisanship in judiciary”

Amy Howe for SCOTUSBlog:

The justices start their new term on Monday, at a time when the Supreme Court is at the center of a bitter battle over President Donald Trump’s nominee to succeed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last month at the age of 87. If Judge Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed, it could cement a decisive conservative majority on the court for decades to come. With the ideological balance on the Supreme Court very much at the forefront of many people’s minds, it is perhaps fitting that in their first oral argument of the term the justices will consider whether a provision in the Delaware constitution that seeks to ensure bipartisanship in the state’s courts violates the U.S. Constitution.

Under the Delaware constitution, judges are appointed by the governor for 12-year terms and must be confirmed by a majority of the state senate. The state’s constitution also imposes additional limitations on the governor’s appointments. One section, known as the “bare majority” provision, directs that no more than a bare majority of the judges on the state’s five main courts can be affiliated with any one political party. Another section, known as the “major party” provision, applies to the three courts known as the “business” courts: the Delaware Supreme Court, the Court of Chancery and the Superior Court. It divides the seats on those courts between the two major political parties – currently the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.

The case before the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, Carney v. Adams, was filed by John Adams, who became a lawyer in 2000. A registered Democrat, Adams worked as a family-law lawyer in the Delaware Department of Justice from 2003 to 20015. Adams changed his party affiliation in 2017 to Independent and decided that he wanted to serve as a judge, but he believed that he would not be able to apply for any future vacancies on the business courts because he wasn’t a Democrat or a Republican. Adams went to federal court in Delaware, where he argued that the “bare majority” and “major party” provisions violate the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by limiting a judicial candidate’s freedom to associate with the political party of his choice.

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