Monday, June 07, 2010

Elections for judges: Judges must hold themselves apart from "the people" if they are to have any credibility and impartiality when ruling on cas

It's bad enough that most politicians owe their elections to contributions from corporations and wealthy individuals and organizations. Judges shouldn't be in the same boat. They should be a separate branch of government that upholds the law without political influence. Democracy in the courtroom exists in the jury system; the judge should be beholden only to the law, not to popular opinion at the time.

The Case Against Judicial Elections: Keep Politics Out of the Law

Andrew Cohen
AOL News
June 6, 2010

The single greatest threat to the "rule of law" in America is not President Barack Obama's health care reform or President George W. Bush's terror law tactics. It isn't a bunch of al-Qaeda thugs posing as terrorists. It isn't punitive damage verdicts in civil cases or, far less seriously, "judicial activism" of the sort loosely talked about all the time by the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The biggest single threat to fair and neutral justice is the trend toward partisan judicial elections at the state and local level. Through this practice, tiny pockets of zealous partisans mobilize to vote into office judges who, in the manner of an elected politician, are then presumed to owe something to their constituents. Or, in the alternative, special-interest groups rise up to vote off the bench judges who have not ruled the way those constituents wanted them to. These elections mark a terribly destructive seepage of politics into law.

In California, for example, a coalition of religious conservatives called Better Courts Now is trying to remove four San Diego-based state court judges. The group's philosophy on judging is as simple as it is misguided. "As a branch of government, judges don't get to hold themselves apart from the people -- they are servants of the people." I am quite certain that every single member of the United States Supreme Court today would disagree entirely with that sentence. Judges must, in many significant ways, hold themselves apart from "the people" if they are to have any credibility and impartiality when ruling on cases...

Of course, judges, like all of us, must balance competing principles when making a decision.

Justice Souter’s Class
New York Times
June 3, 2010

..But for those who care about the Supreme Court, Justice Souter served up some rich fare: his own vision of the craft of constitutional interpretation and a defense of the need for judges to go beyond the plain text — what he called the “fair-reading model” — and make choices among the competing values embedded in the Constitution. Doing this was neither judicial activism nor “making up the law,” he said; rather, it was the unavoidable “stuff of judging,” and to suppose otherwise was to “egregiously” miss the point of what constitutional law is about...

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