Archive for December, 2010

Dec 31 2010

Here's to 2011

When we began the 2009-2010 legislative session, we hoped 2009 would be the last year Pennsylvanians would be electing appellate court judges. Unfortunately, that did not turn out to be the case, and 2011 will bring new judicial elections, including elections to fill a vacancy on the Superior Court and one on the Commonwealth Court.

cheap software acrobat x

But as we continue our educational efforts about the courts, judges and the problems inherent in judicial elections, our coalition for reform continues to grow and public support for change increases.  Legislation implementing Merit Selection for the appellate courts will be introduced in the new session, and we are confident that the growing public support will translate into legislative action.

Pennsylvanians are tired of the money and divisive politics that have come to characterize elections for the appellate courts.  Pennsylvanians want a solution to the money problem and don’t want to worry any longer that campaign contributors receive special treatment in the courtroom.

There is one solution: get money out of the courts by getting judges out of the fundraising business. The best way to do that is to implement a system that takes money out of the equation and focuses on qualifications — experience, temperament, knowledge, and a reputation for fair and ethical behavior. That system is Merit Selection.

Here’s to 2011.

zp8497586rq

Tags: , ,

Comments Off

Dec 28 2010

The Disconnect Between the Courts and the Public

We often write about why perception is so important when it comes to the courts.  We’ve argued that even if campaign contributions never affect a judge’s decision-making, the public perception that there is such an effect is strong enough to damage the courts.  In an op-ed in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, we make that point more broadly, arguing that judges must work to understand public perception:

[J]udges know that the true power of the courts is rooted in the public’s perception and public confidence in fair and impartial justice. When that confidence is undermined – whether for good reason or not – the foundation of our justice system is shaken.
We argue that the disconnect between judges and the public threatens the courts. We urge judges to assume the burden both of demystifying the courts for the public and understanding clearly how court policies and procedures will be perceived by the public:
Judges need to be aware of public perception. This is NOT to guide them in how to decide cases – which must be done independently and without regard to what is popular or politically expedient. Rather, judges must be aware of how the courts’ operations and judicial conduct are perceived by the public. It is not sufficient to bemoan the lack of public understanding. Judges must work to understand what the public believes and why. Even if those beliefs seem unreasonable, judges must understand that they have a tremendous impact on whether or not the public has faith in its courts.
zp8497586rq

Tags: , , ,

Comments Off

Dec 23 2010

An Attempt to Restore Trust in the Courts

Published by under Judges

An article in the Traverse City Record-Eagle provides some more details about the newly formed Michigan Judicial Selection Task Force which will examine the need for judicial reform. The task force will be comprised of twenty-four distinguished Michigan citizens, including but not limited to lawyers. The task force is being organized in part by the chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, who is disturbed by the politicization and expense of judicial campaigns. She expressed her discontent in a statement regarding recent campaigns:

college essay editing service

Over the last decade, millions of dollars have been spent Michigan judicial candidates as being unfit for office. If you watch these ads, you get the impression we are choosing among scoundrels and incompetents.

buy cigarettes online online

This portrayal of the judges damages the court system as a whole, as does the role money plays in the system. Rich Robinson, who runs the Michigan Campaign Finance Network worries that people are losing confidence in the impartiality of the courts: “No trust in courts, no rule of law.” The task force hopes to make its report by the end of the year.

zp8497586rq
zp8497586rq

Tags: , , , , ,

Comments Off

Dec 21 2010

San Antonio Editorial Board is Looking for a Change

The editorial board at the San Antonio Express-News is calling for a change in Texas’s judicial selection. Texas currently uses partisan elections to select judges, but the editorial board believes that politics and money play too large a role in the process. In addition to worrying about politicizing the judiciary, the editorial condemns the fact that: “judges also are forced to solicit campaign contributions, and the only people who care enough to contribute to a judicial race most likely have or will have business before the court.” It notes former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s position against judicial elections as well as the fact that many judges acknowledge the public’s “discomfort” with the money involved in the system.

buy discount cigars online

The editorial goes on to encourage the Texas legislature to adopt merit selection. We agree that the combined appointive and elective elements of merit selection provide the best means of ensuring fair and impartial courts. The public deserves a judiciary it can be confident in, not one tied up in politics and money. Judges have a unique position, and should be insulated from the campaigning and fundraising that accompany elections.

zp8497586rq

Tags: , , , ,

Comments Off

Dec 17 2010

Increasing Transparency in Judicial Selection

Published by under Judges,Merit Selection

Peter Hardin at Gavel Grab reports that for the first time Iowa will make interviews of state Supreme Court candidates available to the public through a live stream on the internet. The Des Moines Register announced this change along with the commission’s plan to interview applicants the week of January 24. Iowa uses a merit selection system for selecting its judges, and the change in the selection commission’s procedure is an attempt to increase openness in the judicial selection process.

Some have argued that the interviews are uninteresting and viewers will be bored. We disagree. Even if the questions during interviews are about procedural and technical issues, opening candidate interview to the public gives people an insight into the process and a sense of the candidates being considered for the bench. It gives people the opportunity to see for themselves that: “[t]he applicants are competent lawyers who are going to have hard questions asked by other lawyers.” One commission member, Guy Cook, believes opening the interviews to the public allows people to determine for themselves whether the commission acts in a “careful, thoughtful way to nominate the best qualified.” It demonstrates that transparency is a priority, and improves what is already a good judicial selection system.

www.squidoo.com/text-your-ex-back-new-review
zp8497586rq

Tags: , , , ,

Comments Off

Dec 15 2010

Michigan Task Force on Court Reform

Published by under Judges,Merit Selection

Dawson Bell at the Detroit Free Press announced that a year-long task force will be launched to examine failings with Michigan’s judicial selection process and make recommendations for reform. The 24-member task force will be comprised of veteran judges, lawyers, and judicial activists, and it will be led by Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Marilyn Kelly and United States 6th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge James Ryan. In addition, former United States Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor will serve as the honorary chairwoman.

google sniper 2

According to Kelly, the task force will examine: “any potential threat to judicial independence posed by the influence of politics and money in judicial elections.” She believes that: “the nasty tenor and intensity of high priced judicial campaigns, such as the recently concluded Supreme Court race, undermine public confidence in the court.”

We agree that judicial elections undermine public confidence in the courts, and that reform is necessary. Merit selection removes money and much of the influence of politics from judicial selection, and is the best way to ensure fair and impartial courts.

zp8497586rq

Tags: , , , , ,

Comments Off

Dec 14 2010

Looking for a Change

An editorial in the Daily Advance explains that the North Carolina Bar Association believes that the state needs a better method of selecting judges, and the editorial board agrees. The Bar Association’s president-elect explains that there are two reasons for what is perceived to be a decline in the judiciary. First, some of the best potential candidates do not want to get involved with the business of political campaigns. The editorial describes how certain potential candidates may be deterred because they: “have no interest in or time for the rough-and-tumble campaign battlefield that exemplifies our elections.” It also mentions that candidates may be turned off by the prospect of fundraising. Second, voters are uninformed about the judicial candidates on the ballot. Voters generally do not have information about “the record, qualifications and abilities” of appellate court candidates, and often voters simply skip those races when voting.

The concerns of the Bar Association, and potential candidates, about judicial elections come even though elections in North Carolina are non-partisan and utilize public financing. Although the editorial has concerns about the success of getting such a measure passed, the Bar Association recommends moving to a merit selection system. A shift to merit selection would: “ensur[e] that the state’s judicial posts would be filled with qualified men and women.” The editorial goes on to suggest that a voter education program could be the solution.

google sniper review

Merit selection is the best means of ensuring fair and impartial courts because it takes the money and much of the politicking out of judicial selection. We believe that merit selection works best when it is accompanied by voter education to ensure that retention elections serve their purpose. By removing campaigning and fundraising from the selection process, merit selection provides the best way to create a fair and impartial judiciary.

zp8497586rq

Tags: , , ,

Comments Off

Dec 09 2010

The Importance of Judicial Independence

Over at What About Clients?, JD Hull is again questioning the practice of electing judges. Stating that electing state judges is “beneath all Americans,” Hull looks to Alexis de Tocqueville to provide an opinion from history that elected judges threaten judicial independence. In 1831, Tocqueville described his concerns about electing members of the judiciary:

penis growth guide

Some other state constitutions make the members of the judiciary elective, and they are even subjected to frequent re-elections. I venture to predict that these innovations will sooner or later be attended with fatal consequences; and that it will be found out at some future period that by thus lessening the independence of the judiciary they have attacked not only the judicial power, but the democratic republic itself.

text your ex back review

We agree with Hull and Tocqueville that electing judges detracts from an independent judiciary, and believe that there is a better alternative. Merit Selection is the best way to ensure the fair and impartial courts that Americans should insist on.

zp8497586rq
zp8497586rq

Tags: , , ,

One response so far

Dec 08 2010

The Role of Judges

Published by under Judges,Opinion

An editorial in the Des Moines Register criticizes governor-elect Terry Branstad for suggesting that new justices on the Iowa Supreme Court should follow the will of voters who recently ousted three justices.

text your ex back

Looking at Branstad’s comments on the court’s gay marriage decision and the future of the court, the editorial describes potential problems with his views. The editorial is primarily concerned that this is mischaracterizing the role of judges, and that this is a call for judges to subvert the civil rights of the minority to the will of the majority. It goes on to state that the Iowa Constitution’s Bill of Rights was: “created to protect minority rights from the tyranny of the majority.”

best way to learn Chinese

We agree that judges play a special role in our government system, and their job is not always to rule in favor of public opinion. The judicial branch is separate from the other branches of government, and should act independently of the public, the executive, and the legislature. Instead, courts should be guided by the law. In terms of judicial selection, this means that for retention elections to provide a meaningful evaluation of judicial performance, the public must be educated about the unique function of judges. Only with education and understanding can the public best play their role in guaranteeing fair and impartial courts.

zp8497586rq
zp8497586rq

Tags: , , ,

Comments Off

Dec 06 2010

Take Another Look at those Cars

Published by under Judges,Opinion

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review this weekend published a letter to the editor from PMC. This letter came as a response to an article about the tax-payer paid leases for luxury vehicles driven by judges. Recognizing that appellate judges travel for court business, the letter explains that the practice is extravagant and should be reevaluated. The letter also points out the effect the policy has on public opinion of the courts: “It just doesn’t look right for public servants to be enjoying such a benefit, especially when the court system is working to do more with less…”

chase home equity loan

Any appearance of bias or impropriety on the part of judges damages the court system as a whole. Public confidence in the courts is vital to a working system, and any policies that undermine that confidence should be reevaluated.

zp8497586rq

Tags: , ,

Comments Off

Next »