March 24, 2008

Judicial elections are "a check on a legal elite who think they should dominate the bench."

The Wall Street Journal weighs in on the Wisconsin Supreme Court race.

19 comments:

Roger said...

My home state of Washington elects its supreme court justices. Although I subscribe to the wisdom of the vox populi in legislative and executive elections, I do not believe the lay public (most certainly including me) knows enough about the law to make an intelligent decision. Moreover, as Carolyn Bird found out, there are mechanisms to remove justices that are available to the people.

rhhardin said...

The editorial has a high school composition class finish.

I myself would have stressed the importance of saving for the winter.
Be like the ant and not like the grasshopper.

rcocean said...

Elections (and recall) of SCOTUS judges are not only a good thing, they are essential to check the power of our unelected "Philosopher Kings".

Its too bad the founding fathers did not include judicial recall in the constitution. Our political system would be much better off.

MadisonMan said...

Interesting -- but not surprising -- that the editorial did not mention the horrid ad that Gableman has run.

J said...

I don't know about judicial elections, but I like the system California has where voters have to confirm (and effectively have the power to fire) SC Justices.

"Be like the ant and not like the grasshopper"

The Master never called his student "ant" (unless the student was, in fact, his aunt, I suppose). Or are you saying the ant is superior because he has no Master?

Kirk Parker said...

Roger,

I assume you mean Rose Bird of California? Meanwhile, I don't think every state has recall of their state Supreme Court justices--does Wisconsin?

J said...

The mechanism I was referring to was used to fire CA SC Chief Justice Rose Bird in 1986. It was my understanding that the confirmation system CA uses is fairly unique.

Ann Althouse said...

MadisonMan said..."Interesting -- but not surprising -- that the editorial did not mention the horrid ad that Gableman has run."

I've looked for that ad -- a lot -- in YouTube, and I wanted to do a post about it, but I couldn't find it. I heard it on the radio during the Week in Review show on Friday and was critical of it on the air. If someone gives me a link to the video, I'll write about it.

These ads emphasize crime, but the bigger questions, which the WSJ concerns itself with, are about business.

John said...

The best thing we could do for the judiciary would be to have strict term limits. The longer a judge sits on the bench, the more imperious he gets and generally the dafter he gets. Gradually the power goes to their heads. On top of that they tend to grow to like being wined and dined at law schools and have their opinions sited in law review articles and generally have their butts kissed by the legal intelligencia. No judge should be allowed to be on the bench five years with the possible exception of state and federal supreme courts and then no more than 10.

If there were strict term limits for judges, it would get new blood into the field. It would also prevent the death matches that go on in the Senate over nominees. If the guy weren't 45 and planning to stay on the court until he was 97 and on a feeding tube during oral arguments, the stakes wouldn't be so high.

Careerist judges are generally a corrupt nasty lot. The only way to deal with them is to prevent them from occurring. The judiciary ought to be a limited public service sabbatical that competent lawyers take before returning to their real jobs.

rcocean said...

Althouse, try this link

Middle Class Guy said...

Nice ad if you are running for prosecutor.

Simon said...

The text of Judge Sykes' speech, referenced in the WSJ story, can be found on the Journal-Sentinel's website here.

reader_iam said...

I'm leery of electing judges. I do recognize the problems with pure appointment systems. I tend to favor term limits, or at least "wait out" periods, in general, for both judicial and elective branches, although I don't really care when it comes to low-level positions, such as records of deeds and such.

(Some of you may recall that I pretty much despise all second-term presidencies, for example. As I've said, I'd personally prefer six-year presidencies--one term consecutively--and if someone wants wants another bite at the apple, fine ... but he or she will need to wait it out for six years.)

Iowa's justices (and judges) are appointed, but they are subject to retention elections. That is, at set periods their names go on ballots and voters are asked if a particular person should be retained or not, a simple up or down. This is not done in the context of voting for some other person to be judge instead. Opinions are available online, for justices anyway, and the Iowa State Bar association publishes evaluations on line about a month before general elections. (Other information is available, of course, by following the news & etc., but that's more accessible and one-stop for most people.)

No system's perfect, but this seems to be about as good a compromise as one is going to get, at least by my lights.

reader_iam said...

I should say that my opinion is a little different for truly local positions with the exception of judges etc. ... because of the proximity of the local government, and those who serve within it, to the individuals in that community.
So I suppose I should qualify my previous statement to indicate state and federal government.

matthew said...

I realize that this was only an op-ed, so it isn't necessarily going to be full of citations to surveys and studies. But it would be nice if someone found a single study that shows support for the oft-state proposition that Wisconsin has become a mecca for litigation by plaintiff. (It really could be true, I just haven't seen any evidence either way).

Of course, I'm not sad at all that I moved out of WI to miss this race. If it's anything like the last Supreme Court Justice race it will be a nice cyclone of non-helpful ads making allegations that don't actually have support.

reader_iam said...

I guess I should take the opportunity to say that, yes, I'm one of those who gets more open to latitude in government the closer it gets to local communities. The farther away it gets, the more limited, and smaller (in relative, not actual, terms, of course), I want it to be.

PatCA said...

I've worked with trial judges who stand for re-confirmation every six years after appointment and with administrative law judges who are in for life. Facing the people is not a perfect solution to maintain a quality judiciary, but allowing then to reign...er, work for life is a horrible one.

Roger said...

Kirk--thanks for the correction! yes THAT rose bird! I plead old age and incipient alzheimers. As far as Wisconsin, I don't know. Thanks again for the correction.

blake said...

I'm not sure that Rose Bird's recall was such a good thing.