This article helped me to better understand the American judicial system and the election process of judges. The commission needs to know that whoever is selected is truly qualified to hold the position. The selection commission usually meets twice in the selection process, and the public is encouraged to attend both of the meetings. The commission usually asks the public for comments regarding the applicants’ qualifications at the beginning of each meeting. Afterward, the commission talks each applicant. (Berman, Jonathon, 2009).
Judicial meetings are held to allow the people to have their say, to choose the person who is best for the position of judge. What happens when it comes time to select a judge? Who is the right person? It is a big deal because the judge has the final say in the courtroom. What happens in the court room makes a difference in society. It is important for people to choose a judge who is able to run a fair court room. Many judges are selection by partisan election. Why don’t all states use partisan election? One reason is that lots of money is involved in the merit selection system.
Elections for judges cost in the millions of dollars. Where does all that money come from and go is a fair question? (Berman, Jonathon, 2009). People are concerned with various kinds of issues that judges at the state levels hear. Voters can be mobilized by a number of states use non-partisan election to select their judges. This process is due to people talking about an unpopular judicial decision that will come out and vote for many various candidates running for various types of judicial positions. There are a lot of pressures on judges regardless of the election system.
I believe this is being very destabilizing to our justice system. In rural areas, the election system has not been so bad, but has been a true disaster in urban areas of the United States. In many states there are several contested judicial elections which cause problems in the election process. Many times citizens are asked to choose relative merits of judge applicants whom they have never heard of. The people had no other que than a party label. If it had been non-partisan, the voters would probably have merely chosen the shortest name. If there is one judge in a county, elections work pretty well.
If there is a huge number of judges there are many problems that arise. I think in the long run, at open elections, particularly judges with a party label, make judicial applicants behave less how we want judges to behave and more like legislatures in robes (Berman, Jonathon, 2009). Judicial selection in the United States today, given how the people perceive what judges are doing, and given the dispute in this country as to the proper role of judges, is political. People, educated or uneducated, sophisticated or not, are largely divided into two schools of thought as to what judges ought to do.
What is the proper scope of the judges’ authority? There is the traditional approach to judging that is advanced by conservatives. According to the traditional approach, judges are to interpret statutes of the Constitution by attempting to discern the original understanding of the drafters or radifiers. There is very little latitude in this approach for philanthropy. The judges’ roles are important, but constrained (Berman, Jonathon, 2009). The other proposition advanced by liberals supports a more aggressive role for judges.
This model sees judges with much more warrant to make policy in politically contentious areas, such as, the death penalty, affirmative action, abortion, religion in the public square, sexual liberty, same sex marriage and the like through vehicles such as living constitutions and uninumerated rights. We cannot truly ignore that selection is political. Society wants a person who agrees with them in a proper role of a judge. This idea cannot be wished away in any effort to construct a judicial selection system that acts as though this is not the current state of affairs.
The merit selection approach, which asserts that all we have to do is to find the best qualified lawyers and make them judges asks us to operate as if there is no problems in the selection process. I am not in favor of merit selection even though it has a highly appealing title. I am an advocate of popular election of judges. With the elections being full of robust issue debate, there are problems with the election of judges due to voter ignorance and voter misdirections by partisans. I think that at least the public election system acknowledges there are problems in the election process of judges.
Rather than having elites of one sort or another operating in government and making the decision, judicial selection gives the choice to regular lawyers (Berman, Jonathon, 2009). We live in a time where it is condescending to look to regular lawyers as decision makers, but I think this attitude should give us cause, because the notion citizens can make wise choices is at the very heart of our system of government. I think upon close examination, even merit selection advocates would have to admit that the favored system in practice is driven by politics. The difference is this.
In merit selection, the politics are driven underground, where the politics of elections are pubic and obvious. Merit selection does not remove politics from the process. It just makes the politics harder to unearth, as it is hidden from public scrutiny and voter reaction. Merit selection is always layer dominated. I think that those who advocate merit selection, political seems to be code for having the people involved in the selection of their judges. I am not persuaded that the reputation or quality of state courts suffer because the people have that choice.
I have not found any evidence that states with merit selection have better traditional decision making than those which elect their judges. How can we justify taking the choice away from voters and placing it in the hands of a select few? I am yet to be convinced by any arguments presented that merit selection is the best selection process (Berman, Jonathon, 2009). What must be acknowledged is that there is an increasingly national perception that courts are out of control. The appropriate response to that concern is not to take the people out of the selection process.
We should notice who is not calling for merit selection. Not the business community, not labor unions, not farmers, teachers, retirees or even church pastors. Merit selection calls come mainly from other selections of lawyers, advocacy groups who are opponents of judicial elections. They are hardly the only people who care about justice. They seem to me to want to be in control of who chooses the judges. These people do not truly want to preserve traditional independence, which isn’t really threatened anyway.
They seem to want to make as sure as they can, the candidates who share their political views in the great debate over the role of judges, a selection system that favors their prospects of making it to the bench. I think that merit selection is a solution that fails to perceive the real problem; there will always be politics. I believe any selection for the foreseeable future will have politics. We need to acknowledge that reality and evaluate methods of selection with that truth in mind (Berman, Jonathon, 2009).
Chief Justice Thomas Phillips of Texas points out that there are many ways of selecting state judges. In past history there were many different ways in selecting state judges, legislators and governors. Over the past two-hundred years, most states have developed an election process that fits their expectations. I believe that in today’s world that the states know what legislators do and know what judges do, and have come up mostly with the best way to choose them.
However, points out Chief Justice Phillips, there really have been no good consensus on how to effectively elect state judges because it is very difficult to ask a political body to come up with a person who is supposed to act in a non-political way. Many courts have an anti-majoritarian nature, and must be that way. Throughout history members of society have struggled with the politicians to give us judges who are apart from politics yet still accountable to the people (Berman, Jonathon, 2009). Reference Berman, Jonathon (2009).
You May Know the Law But I Own the Judge: Why Congress Can and Should Get Involved in State Judicial Election Reform. The Journal of the Legal Profession, 34 (145). Article 2: SYMPOSIUM: JUDICIAL SELECTION: PART I. REFORM: ARE CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS COMPROMISING THE INDEPENDENT JUDICIARY? The average American family would have to work more than 14,000 years to make as much money as government elections cost on an annual average. Where does all that money go? About fifty-six percent of the money went to media, television, radio and internet adds.
Election campaigns are exploding like rapidly growing start-up businesses. Administration is the second most expensive part of the campaign elections. Around one-hundred twenty-five million dollars yearly goes to traveling, staffing, shipping, rent, food and supplies like staplers, liquid paper, cell phones, floral services and interpreters (Skaggs, Adam, 2010). Consultants, posters, web sites, rallies and flyers, fund-raising events and polling units cost campaign election candidates a tremendous amount of money.
Many Americans believe that way too much money is being spent on judicial elections. I think that if enormous amounts of money is spent on selection of governmental officials, that a fair court will be corrupted. Americans continue to not trust elected judges in the United States. I believe that when the judges are in control of the trials and cases of voting citizens who support the campaigns, the public citizens begin to believe that judicial impartiality is corrupted and destroyed (Skaggs, Adam, 2010).
In many incidences the public don’t realize that lots of money is required for certain political races to take place. The only way the voters can find out about the races that are virtually hidden from the public is for the candidates themselves, or some special interest group interested in the political race, raise a lot of money and spends it on paid advertising. Congressional candidates, political parties, outside interest groups and last minute spending make up an enormous cost for political campaigns.
US citizens are believing that too much money is being spent on such campaigning standards (Skaggs, Adam, 2010). Conservative organizations are spending more than two dollars on advertising for every one dollar that liberal groups spend. Tit seems to me that the conservative candidates themselves are outpacing liberal candidate spending as well. Another pointed piece of data, campaign donations from big business, have rerouted to the conservatives after unpopular policies amongst the group passed with the liberals in power.
I think that campaign elections are costing taxpayers way too much money. If the government would stop spending so much money on judicial elections, the costs of medical services, gasoline, transportation, food, housing, and other needed services could possibly be lowered if the money spent on government elections would instead be used for the well-being of US citizens. (Skaggs, Adam, 2010). Reference Skaggs, Adam (2010) SYMPOSIUM: JUDICIAL SELECTION: PART I. REFORM: ARE CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS COMPROMISING THE INDEPENDENT JUDICIARY? State Bar of Texas, Litigation Section.