Oct 31 2008
An editorial in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal launches another misguided attack at Merit Selection. Recycling tired arguments about the influence of plaintiffs’ trial lawyers on nominating commissions, the editorial asserts: “What began as an effort to keep politics out of judicial selection has become a wholesale transfer of power from voters to the legal guild. Elections have their own problems, but at least they require the legal elite to be accountable to voters. ”
It’s hard to take this complaint seriously as it follows a rundown of the state Supreme Court seats up for election next week that identifies each candidate by political party, whether they lean “left” or “right,” and what interest groups (ie. business or labor or lawyers) support them.
In fact, the editorial actually confirms what we’ve long said is a problem with elections: judges are elected based on factors irrelevant to how they will perform on the bench. Funding, campaign skill and affiliation with or support by certain interest groups is more important than qualifications, skill and experience. Our friends over at Gavel Grab hit the nail on the head in their insightful post about the editorial:
Beyond the pedestrian falsehoods, we couldn’t help but appreciate the deeper irony: over five anxious paragraphs, the Journal lays out attempts by trial lawyers to invest money into justices of their choice to reverse years of elections won by groups seeking to limit lawsuit awards.
We welcome their concern. If the Journal believes that justices whose campaigns are funded by trial lawyers will be partial to trial lawyers once elected, perhaps they’ll be more inclined to understand the core concern of most Americans about no-holds-barred judicial elections.
It’s the perception that all this money and partisan politicking and special interest involvement create that’s so damaging to our system. Polls repeatedly show that the public believes that campaign contributions influence behavior in the courtroom. The Journal’s editorial demonstrates how powerful this belief is. Merit Selection advocates want to remove this perception and what causes it by implementing a system of judicial selection that puts the emphasis where it should be on skills, qualifications and experience.Tags: elections, Gavel Grab, Merit Selection, Wall Stree Journal