The process of choosing state court judges differs widely from state to state. How we choice judges is important because the judicial system affects the experience level of the judiciary and the ability of the qualified judges in the system. A system for selecting judges must be legitimate. For an appointive system to be perceived as legitimate, it must ensure that diversity is considered in nominating candidates and appointing judges.
The appointive system should include provisions that make the process transparent so that it can be monitored to see if the process is fair in providing lawyers from all minorities and genders a fair chance to becoming a judge. An example of a good system of selecting judges is the New Mexican system. In this system, the screening of judicial applicants is done by a nominating committee. The process involves selection by a small group. Although the governor makes the ultimate appointment his appointment power is limited to the list of applicants nominated by the commission.
The appointive system might however be controlled by a group of insiders to leave out the outsiders like women and minority lawyers such as those who work in small or sole practice, or out side the urban centers of the state. This is however stopped by rules set by the commission and countered by the public having faith in the fairness of the system and the system’s accountability. The council is the body, which guarantees co-operation between the legislative and judicial branches of government in selecting judges.
Judges are appointed by the president of the republic on recommendation of the judicial council while the president of the supreme courts is appointed by the national assemble on the proposal of the judicial council from among Supreme Court judges. This proposed system is good because it is an ancient system and has worked in places like America effectively. Another reason is that it is only fair that the take over of judicial offices is separated from politics as in the executive branch of the government.
This will ensure that judges concentrate on the bookcases other than political campaigns to get to office. The fact that modern western democratic societies all provide that judges are appointed by either the president of the republic or the minister of justice is a reason for using this selection method. The merit selection is another method of selecting a judge. This method is carried out in Columbia. It was proposed as a means of separating judges from the election process that shapes the selection of legislation and executive.
Here the citizens turn up and vote in a candidate to be a judge. The turn up however is low. Arguments against merit selection are that it deprive citizens of their franchise and it does not take politics out of the judicial selection. It is disadvantageous in that some candidates shy away from politics and so they do not stand to be elected. The nomination commissioners are not representatives of the population and thus candidates will not be drawn from all segments of the states. Judges are rarely removed in retention elections.
Elections serve to educate and the public whereas merit selection does not. This method also contains benefits which are; although advocates of the merit system concede that politics can never be completely eliminated from the judicial selection process this point to the benefit of selection by a nominating committee that include lawyers who bring expertise to the selection process. Secondly proponent feel that the judges selected through this process will have more time to spend on the matter before them than judges who stand for elections.
Lastly in some states the merits selection process results in a higher number of appointments of minority and female candidates. The last system of selecting judges is through election. In nine states the judges run as members of a political party and in twelve other states the election are nonpartisan meaning that the judges do not revel their political affliations. The costs of this methods is that controversial races creates pressures to raise more money.
More candidates often contribute the largest contributions to the campaigns, which may lead to a lot of debt. Looking at the activities of the individual candidates who run for the election in this judge selection method, such as party affiliations, committee assignments, voting records, and policy position it is seen to be costly and time consuming. Critics say that judges should spend their time reducing the backlog of cases rather than campaigning for office.
The merits of this system are that the society argues that judicial elections while not flawless are better than the alternative. To conclude the best selection method is appointment. The reason I have come to this conclusion is that: It is effective and not time consuming. Money and other recourses are not put to waste in terms of campaigns. Moreover power to appoint is limited because the committee selects judges from whom the president appoints. It is a transparent method where laws govern the committee so as to be diverged.
The number of the minority and women appointed is large and mores they are all well qualified for the job. Politics is not mixed up with the judicial system giving the judges sufficient time to work on the many bookcases pending. There is less bribery and corruption in the system hence political stability. National unity as the judicial is an independent entity.
- Gotham gazette, Aug 8, 2003 p 6 Cabrera and NASA, 2001: A Shared Agenda Report (Path Ways to College Network) http://www.americanbar.org/aba.html