Esther - posted on 05/26/2010 ( 12 moms have responded )
I read an op-ed in the NY Times this weekend by Sandra Day O'Connor where she is advocating having judges be appointed by a nominating committee and then when they've served a few years allowing voters to decide whether they can stay or they have to go. Jonathan Bernstein in the Washington post responded to her op-ed piece and argued that judges should be taken off the ballot altogether because voters simply are not equiped to judge the judges and because any type of election (retention or otherwise) invites politics into the justice system. Money Quote from Bernstein:
It's not remotely realistic to expect that voters make careful decisions about judges. Not really because of the technical expertise needed to do so, but because of the numbers game. Voters don't sit down and carefully consider the case for and against handfuls of state judges, on top of federal, state, and local legislative and executive branch candidates, not to mention in many places both state and local ballot measures. Instead, voters use shortcuts, with the big one being party affiliation. O'Connor's preference is for a yes/no vote on incumbent judges (something already used in some states), but in reality voters have no idea who their states' judges are, much less whether they're doing a good job or not. What this translates into is incumbent judges who are safe unless they annoy a well-funded interest group, a coalition of groups, or a political party. Is that really what we want? Judges who know that their jobs are safe as long as they don't rattle any cages -- at least not any cages that can do full-scale opposition research and produce TV ads?
I have to say that I agree with Bernstein. Admittedly, I'm from a country where there are no elections for judges and the whole concept is therefore foreign to me. Judges are appointed for life. Nobody has any clue about their political affiliations and nobody cares. They are appointed based on their legal abilities. I personally prefer that system. I don't see how judges can be independent if they have to please their supporters. What do you all think?
Here are the links to both articles: