What Does Vacant Mean?

The state constitution says the governor can appoint a judge to a vacant position. What's a little sticky right now is what constitutes a vacant position.

Three appeals court judges have announced they will retire at the end of their terms next year. They did so because the Judicial Nominating Commission that will pick their successors goes away at the end of this month. The Legislature did not see fit to reauthorize the group so they are "sunset" and cannot be replaced until the next session of the Legislature, if at all.

The Judicial Nominating Commission is supposed to submit three names and the governor then picks one of them. But can they nominate judges and can the governor pick one if the existing judges do not vacate their offices until next year?

The lack of a Judicial Nominating Commission will likely bring on other complications should any judges leave office over the next year, given the process screeches to a halt June 30.