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Top Republicans critical of Judicial Selection Proposal

Posted at 9:47 PM, Jan 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-30 23:51:03-05

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — A proposed amendment to Utah’s constitution sparked a feud on Twitter Thursday.

Sen. Dan McCay wants more public input on the way judges are chosen in the state. The only thing public about the constitutional amendment is harsh criticism from his own political party. It’s criticism he welcomes.

Fighting words on social media. Lt. Governor Spencer Cox took aim writing, “It would be impossible for me to overstate what a terrible idea this is.”

Senator Todd Weiler chimed in, “Easily the most terrible of all of Dan McCay’s terrible ideas.”

The idea would rewrite the state constitution, dramatically changing the way judges are picked.

Right now, voters approve to keep judges on the bench but not to get them there in the first place. That’s the governor’s job, but Sen. McCay wants it to be up to the voters.

“Is there a better way to do this? Is there another way to do this that better links the perspective of the judges with the perspective of the public,” Sen. McCay said.

Potential judges would have to campaign for the election, which may cause trouble down the line, according to Lt. Governor Cox.

"Judges, the one branch of government where we want to be independent of politics that we don’t want to have to raise money which leads to corruption,” Lt. Gov. Cox said.

The Utah Bar Association and a Utah Supreme Court Justice also weighed in saying Utah's current judicial selection is envied by states with an initial public vote.

Despite the criticism, Senator McCay argues the point of the proposal was to start the conversation, not necessarily get it passed.

“If you’re married to an end result, then I think usually lawmakers have a hard time being very effective. You have to start the conversation somewhere,” Sen McCay said.

Since the proposal will change the constitution, it must get a supermajority in both the House and Senate and then approved by voters.