Mar 25 2014
It’s been said before, ‘merit selection takes power away from the people to choose judges who represent them.’
But, that represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of a judge; judges should not represent the people who voted for them. Judges should represent the law and the ability to decide cases before them impartially.
Judges are expected to decide cases based on the facts and the law, not public opinion or campaign promises. In allowing lawyers, law firms and groups who often appear before the court the ability to donate to judicial campaigns, we risk the public perception that judges rule in favor of their supporters. This creates the impression that justice is for sale.
Merit selection allows citizens the opportunity for more meaningful participation in judicial selection. In reality, how much meaningful information is the public receiving about judicial candidates under the current judicial election system? The public is bombarded with numerous names (many of whom they probably never heard of) and the real worth of a candidate is lost beneath all the flashy political signs and slogans rampant in campaigns.
Under merit selection, the chaos of campaigning is removed thus allowing for more productive interaction between prospective judges and the public. Through the initial merit selection process, only the most qualified of applicants are given consideration for appointments. As members of the nominating commission, citizens are then able to engage in more meaningful consideration of nominees, rather then wading through lists of names. The public may also give input to the Governor before he or she makes the nomination and during the confirmation hearings before the Senate.
Most importantly, retention elections provide the public with another opportunity for engaged participation. Retention elections allow the public to decide whether a judge should stay on the bench based on the judge’s track record, not on his or her campaign capabilities.
The most important thing to remember is that while the public is still engaged through the nominating commission and retention election process, the law is still the primary concern. Both the nominating commission and the retention election is concerned about the ability of candidates to objectively represent the law, not a specific interest group.
In essence, merit selection is not about taking power away from the people, rather it’s about providing the public with the best chance of having a fair and impartial judiciary.Tags: Judges, judicial elections, Merit Selection