On electing judges


One of the things that shocked me when I first came to the US was the practice of electing judges. While I can understand that appointing judges can lead to insider cronyism, it should be possible to find a way to ensure that competent and reasonably impartial people can be found to serve as judges without putting them through the inherently corrupting process of raising money for elections and then pandering to low-information voters.

One way might be for a professional judicial body to screen potential candidates for a judgeship and offer up a slate of possibilities for the executive and/or legislative branches of government to select from. On his show Last Week Tonight, John Oliver did an investigate report on this practice of electing judges and its deleterious consequences.

Comments

  1. Ed says

    I always thought the idea of elected judges as well as elected sheriffs were extremely corrupt. Better not arrest/convict a popular person. Election day is coming up soon! On the other hand they could boost their popularity by oppressing people disliked by the majority.

    I’m not saying they’re all like that, but that way of getting the jobs of head of police or judge is an open invitation. Defenders would say that it lets the public strike back at cruel or irresponsible ones by not voting for them again, but this does little or nothing for marginalized groups or isolated individuals.

    What’s needed is a very strong system for investigating complaints against police and judges and holding them responsible for abuses. The current system puts all kinds of limits on this in the name of keeping criminals from harassing police and judges with litigation.

    Boo-hoo! Excuse me for not feeling sorry for people who wield tremendous power under the cover of something close to diplomatic immunity. And the idea of a “judge” without a legal education is a very backward tradition, too.

  2. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    “One way might be for a professional judicial body to screen potential candidates for a judgeship and offer up a slate of possibilities for the executive and/or legislative branches of government to select from. ”

    In some states, that’s the way it works – with an initially appointed judge coming up on a ballot for “retain or remove” every several years. It means that one with a ghastly record can be removed, but eliminates the need for running for office.

  3. Glenn says

    Between the corruption of a government who would appoint a judge and a low information electorate easily swayed by advertisements, or even by the perceived nationality of the candidate, we’re doomed.

  4. Sean (I am not an imposter) says

    Why stop at judges? Why don’t we get a committee of our betters to appoint the president, congress, and all state governors? Clearly, the people are too dumb for this democracy thing to work.

    If anything, one of the primary problems of our “democracy” is that a committee of our “betters” does get to choose our leaders, by giving us a limited slate of appointees who serve their interests and giving us the illusion of choice in being able to select from among them.

    Caribbean pirates had a better system of democracy than this.

    Any system by which leaders are chosen is guaranteed to produce flawed outcomes but with democracy you can vote the bums out…at least in theory. It can be extremely difficult to remove a corrupt appointee when the power to do so is in the hands of the people who put him there, and the corrupt appointee has dirt on the people who shared in the benefits of his corruption.

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