Now that all the votes have been counted, where do we stand on the issue of merit retention of judges versus the current system of direct elections?
As Judge Glick points out in his post yesterday afternoon, there is no correlation between merit retention and the public’s knowledge of a Judge.
LENNY GLICK said...
MERIT RETENTION REALITY CHECK !!!!
History has shown us that no matter how disliked,and/or incompetent a jurist may be or how well thought of and supremely competent a jurist is, the public has no clue.
Virtually every merit retention election scores about the same across the board. 70 to 75% of the voters say "keep them" while 25 to 30% of the voters say "throw the bums out", without ever knowing if they are heroes or bums.
Therein lies one of the arguments for elections versus appointment and merit retention. Congrats to the newly elected Judges. As for how any individual new judge will be on the bench, there will be some stars and some duds as in any profession. My hope is that they will be given a chance to blossom.
The same theory about newly released movies should apply to new judges, Go see the movie yourself and don't judge a movie by what some reviewer tells you.
You may be very surprised.
Thanks for listening
Rumpole ruminates: what makes Judge Glick or any proponent of direct elections believe that an uninformed public would have any better knowledge of either candidate in a direct election? Judicial rules of conduct do not allow for a discussion of the issues. The candidate just gives their name, length of time they are a lawyer, and the fact that they joined Judge Rosinek’s Kiwanis Club six months before the election to put something else on their election pamphlet.
The discussion for the last six months was whether a clearly qualified Judge like Steve Leifman would be able to win an election against a clearly unqualified candidate with a popular Hispanic name. Recent history proves that the unqualified candidate does not have a free ride. But ask Judge Leifman just how expensive and time consuming it was to get his message out. Plus, there is a distinct possibility that the weather on election day kept many people home who would have otherwise voted against Judge Leifman. That election may have been a fluke, and how comfortable are we with the idea that it takes a fluke for a qualified Judge to retain his seat?
The election in 2004 saw two very experienced and extremely well qualified sitting circuit court judges lose to candidates who, while they may have been fine lawyers (personally we had never heard of them) , had demonstrated nothing that would merit their election at the expense of the very experienced Judges they were replacing ( and these judges would do well to keep that in mind).
It was clearly a name issue in 2004 and there is no guarantee that elections will not be a name issue in the future. And lest you think this is sour grapes by a white male ( we are not confirming or denying our ethnicity, si?) lets be clear that for the preceding 30 years all it took was the last name of Klein to get a safe spot on the bench. As one former judge remarked, “nobody was crying for Rudy Sorondo when he could not get elected.” Yet history has shown the governor made an excellent choice in appointing Mr. Sorondo.
We are not pining for the old days when there was the same problem, just with different types of names. The same potential for a mediocre judiciary existed then. We demand the best in our judges. The average and below should just move North of the Border, where like cows to a salt lick, they seem to congregate
So where are we and where are we going?
We have no idea.
There are strong arguments for and against direct elections, and for and against appointments and merit retention. Perhaps the current amalgamated system is best.
Some very good judges could never get an appointment.
And some very good judges could never win an election.
The final wisdom in Judge Glick’s post is unimpeachable: Don’t judge a judge by what the other attorneys say. Judge him or her by your own experiences.
We should give our newly elected Judges a chance.
(And of course when they do screw up, we are here to let the world know about it. )
See You In Court.