Archive for the 'Merit Selection' Category
A recent plea (see Gavel Grab) by retired Oregon Supreme Court Justices William Riggs and Michael Gillette, for a switch from judicial elections to merit selection of judges, is making waves.
The ex-justices “are right to urge Oregonians to rethink how judges are selected,” said a Register-Guard editorial. “In states across the country, interest groups are spending tens of millions of dollars to sway the courts in their favor.”
“Americans are increasingly concerned about the influence of money and politics on the judiciary,” the editorial said. “As Riggs and Gillette warn, ‘Now is the time to rethink how we select judges in Oregon — before we face a public confidence crisis.’”
As Kansas debates proposed changes to the way state Supreme Court justices are chosen, Justice at Stake said it would be a mistake to adopt a more political selection process, the Lawrence Journal-World reported.
Instead of using the existing merit selection method for choosing Kansas justices, Gov. Sam Brownback recently voiced support for holding contested elections or allowing direct appointment by the governor, subject to Senate approval (see Gavel Grab).
Chief Justice Lawton Nuss of the Kansas Supreme Court said switching to an appointment system with similarities to the federal model is not necessarily a good idea, given the politics that plays out in Washington, D.C. over judicial nominations. And he said direct elections pose the biggest dangers: “You have justices, or judicial candidates, going around the state asking for money,” Chief Justice Nuss said. “They spend a lot of time campaigning for that office.” Read more
New Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf ought to use merit selection to fill two interim vacancies on the state Supreme Court, a Philadelphia Inquirer editorial says in citing advocacy by a Justice at Stake partner organization:
“Lynn Marks of the reform group Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts sensibly suggests that the governor assemble a bipartisan nominating commission to produce a short list of potential nominees. Ideally, the commission would be rich in legal and judicial expertise. And as Marks noted, it should aim to select candidates based on integrity, intellect, experience, and temperament.
“If well executed, such a process could suggest fine candidates for election to full terms on the high court and others. Moreover, it could serve as a model and motive for the legislature to replace judicial elections with an appointment process that would more consistently produce competent, impartial, ethical judges.”
An economic analysis supportive of replacing partisan judicial elections with a merit selection system ought to “resonate” with Republican supermajorities in the Alabama legislature, a Montgomery Advertiser editorial says.
The analysis of John A. Dove of Troy University in Alabama was the subject of a recent Gavel Grab post. Dove asserts that Alabama’s legal system is overrun by politics, and it would help boost the economy and job creation to reduce politics in the courtroom by replacing partisan judicial elections with merit selection.
The editorial notes that that it is far from that newspaper’s first to call for consideration of merit selection, but philosophical arguments have not won over legislators. Perhaps an economic argument will have greater influence, it says: Read more
Alabama’s legal system is overrun by politics, and it would help boost the economy and job creation to reduce politics in the courtroom by replacing partisan judicial elections with merit selection of judges, an assistant economics professor says.
John A. Dove of Troy University in Troy, Alabama outlines his ideas in a new study and in a Montgomery Advertiser op-ed. He writes, “Replacing partisan election of judges with merit selection will promote a predictable, fair legal system. This less biased legal environment will have a tremendous impact on supporting business growth, progress and development, translating into jobs, opportunity and prosperity for more Alabamians.” Read more
Editorials are calling for consideration of changing the way judges are selected in one state where elections were held recently and another where a scandal has resulted in a new high court vacancy.
In Ohio, a Canton Repository editorial asked, “Is it time to change way judges are selected?” It also asserted, “Chief justice thinks so, but Ohioans need to be brought into the conversation.”
Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, remarking on a high number of uncontested judicial elections in the state this year, recently said Ohio ought to consider appointing judges rather than electing them (see Gavel Grab). Read more
Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, remarking on a high number of uncontested judicial elections in the state this year, says Ohio ought to consider appointing judges rather than electing them.
Justice O’Connor has discussed reform in the past (see Gavel Grab) although her proposals have not resulted in action by the legislature. She recently expressed her concerns in an interview with the Associated Press, which summed up her thinking this way:
“The goal is to take politics out of judicial campaigns, O’Connor said. She favors a system where the governor would appoint judges based on recommendations from a screening committee, with voters casting ballots in retention elections two years later to decide whether the judges should keep their jobs.
“That plan would ‘still allow the voters to weigh in, but you would be judging the candidate on their record, what have they done for the two years during the interim,’ O’Connor said. ‘That preserves the best of both worlds.'”
As a $200,000 injection of outside money from a national group (see Gavel Grab) changes the focus of a Cole County, Missouri election for Circuit Court, a St. Louis Post editorial calls for changing the way judges are chosen there.
Cole County voters would do well to follow the model of Greene County voters, who decided in 2008 to halt electing local judges and instead adopt the merit-based selection system that is used to choose local judges in St. Louis and Kansas City, and all state appellate judges, the editorial says.
“The administration of justice is too important to have questions about whether one donor, or a group of donors, can buy their own judicial outcomes by using their cash to tilt an election,” the editorial asserts. Read moreNo comments
From an op-ed critical of the Alaska Judicial Council and a rebuttal by a council defender, you can learn about controversy over a nonpartisan entity established at Alaska’s statehood to evaluate judicial candidates within a merit-based selection system.
John Harmon, an Anchorage educator and a former Fortune 500 corporate attorney, wrote recently in the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, “Alaska promotes its judicial system as ‘merit’ based, but the actions seen from the Council appear to be those of partisan politics.”
This week Barbara Hood, a retired attorney and a founding board member of Justice Not Politics Alaska, wrote a Valley Frontiersman reply asserting that the council is doing its job well. “In recent years, members of Alaska’s judiciary have come under attack by political groups with agendas,” she said. “Now the same special interest groups seek to reshape our justice system by targeting the council itself.” Read moreNo comments
One of the latest local editorial boards to declare that there’s something hugely wrong with judicial elections works at the Beloit Daily News in Wisconsin.
When it published an editorial about reforms for the public to consider, the editorial board spotlighted merit selection of judges. Here is what the editorial said, under the headline “Do the people want to take charge?”
“APPOINT THE STATE’S top judges, identified and selected by a merit commission, rather than electing them. The ugly Wisconsin Supreme Court elections — dominated by partisan interests and tainted by big money — have become an embarrassment, and worse. Decisions of law are colored by partisan politics, over time eroding the people’s trust in the judicial branch. Without a doubt, people want the courts to be a fair referee, not just another partisan branch of government.” Read more