Aug 21 2014
Could a reasonable person expect the average voter to perform in-depth and efficient background checks and research on 19 candidates for the election of one seat on the bench? North Carolina seems to place that level of optimistic confidence in their voters.
After Judge John Martin retired on August 1, 2014 from North Carolina’sSuperior Court, 19 judicial candidates stepped up in hopes to fill his vacant seat. Because Judge Martin retired after the primary elections, but before the general election, all candidates for his seat will be listed on the November ballot. The person who is elected will have an 8 year term with the ability to alter or shape the climate and conditions of the North Carolinian courtroom.
Choosing judges is an important decision. Judges affect all aspects of our lives, from where we live to where we work to who we marry. It’s important that the most qualified, fair and impartial judges sit on the bench. But by electing judges, however, we are all too familiar with the fact that the average voter will not research all the candidates in the judicial election in hopes to find the best fit for the job. And who would? Instead, judges are elected based on at things like name recognition, the ethnic or geographic background of a candidate, or even where a candidate is listed on the ballot. This type of chance should be concerning, as it does not ensure that a well-qualified and impartial person sits on the bench.
Although this is an extreme example, the North Carolina race for chief judge of the Superior Court clearly demonstrates the problems with judicial elections. Pennsylvania should NOT follow suit; as we should all know by now that repeating an action over again and again expecting a different result is the wrong path. But there are other options. Merit selection is the right solution to break this cycle. Merit selection ensures that only the most qualified, fair and impartial judges reach the bench.