Mar 08 2013
Pulling from her own experience as a candidate for Wisconsin’s high court, state appellate court judge JoAnne Kloppenburg argues, “the key [to removing outside influences in the courtroom] is to get money out of judicial elections.” And the only way to remove money from judicial elections, says Kloppenburg, is to simply not have judicial elections.
Similar to Pennsylvania, Wisconsin currently elects judges at all levels, including statewide judgeships. Instead of such politically driven campaigns steeped in financial contributions, Kloppenburg supports adopting a merit selection system for Wisconsinites. Pennsylvanians should make the change as well.
According to a recent article in the Daily Union, twenty-four states are now using merit selection to choose judges. Merit selection can restore trust in the system, while putting the most qualified jurists on the bench.
Kloppenburg notes that the “integrity of our three-branch system of government depends on” an independent judiciary of impartial and fair judges. Accordingly, judges should be free of the restraints and interests of campaign contributors, and politicking ought to be left to the executive and legislative branches.
Instead of electioneering, merit selection puts the focus where it ought to be, “on experience, qualifications, and character.” Not only does this draw upon the most qualified candidates, but it also ensures that judges
“will not decide cases to please the groups that paid for their elections.” And, perhaps most important, it guarantees that litigants will not be forced to stand before a judge whose tenure was paid for in part by an opposing party’s campaign contributions.
According to Kloppenburg, judges ought to have one simple agenda; applying the law impartially and fairly.It’s merit selection that can ensure a focus on this agenda. It’s merit selection that Pennsylvania should adopt.