Mar 13 2013

Study Finds Elected Judges Less Effective Than Their Merit Chosen Counterparts

Published by at 3:28 pm under Merit Selection

According to a recent article in the Daily Princetonian, a new study finds that judges selected through a merit selection process are more effective than their elected peers.  The study shows that judges chosen through merit selection are more effective on the bench, as they possess higher quality of information about the cases that come before them, make fewer mistakes regarding the law by which the case is to be judged, and are more open to altering their views according to new information provided to them on a case by case basis.

Researchers reviewed nearly 6000 state supreme court rulings in criminal cases in order to study the trade-offs involved in choosing between appointed officials and elected officials.  The research gives us a unique glimpse into the ultimate effectiveness of judges chosen through merit selection when compared to their elected counterparts.  As one author of the study commented, “[elected] judges are not necessarily the great legal minds, they’re the great political minds, the ones that can get elected in a popular election.”  Because of the constant attachment to the electorate, the researchers note that elected judges often pander to the public through their

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This is a far step from simply pandering during elections.  Through this, the study shows, “There is a lot of theory indicating that sometimes elections induce incentives for politicians to actually make wrong choices, to actually throw away information, to act in a way that makes them look as if they were more competent or as if they were more in line with the electorate, but without actually taking full consideration of the impact of their actions on the policy.”

Although Pennsylvania uses an electoral system for choosing judges, all hope is not lost.  Pennsylvanians can push our lawmakers to offer us the chance to vote on how we would like our judges selected.

We could continue to choose statewide judges through partisan political elections, but by doing so, we face the potential for continued campaign corruption and the disturbing fate of having less effective judges.  On the other hand, Pennsylvanians can choose to implement merit selection, thereby removing the hazards of campaigning while also ensuring ourselves that the most qualified candidates for the bench are hearing our cases.


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