Michigan Supreme Court, including the disgraced former Judge Diane Hathaway

Should Court Judges be elected… or appointed?

Image

A man insults Broward County Judge John Hurley after an unfavorable bond decision, to which he has an astonished look upon his face, who later handed down two consecutive 60-day contempt of court convictions.  Judge Hurley is an elected official.

A question that’s recently been raised to me is:

“Why do we ELECT judges as opposed to having them appointed?”

I’ve always been extremely uncomfortable with elected judges; particularly with educational or other professional credentials required simply to get on the ballot; and the argument is simple: elected judges become constrained and influenced by the political process.

This is a contrast to an appointed judge — someone who is selected by an executive or other governing body, to some term, and is not subject to the political or partisan process otherwise.

With this in mind, I think it’s reasonable to conclude that Judges may find themselves rendering politically-biased and motivated decisions and findings if they are subject to an election.  Indeed, this is evidenced in several case studies, one in particular by Loyola Law Professor Berdejô and Berkley Professor of Business Noam Yuchtman found that in Washington State alone, judges who were up for re-election gave considerably harsher sentences in the time leading up to their election compared to their appointed peers; a figure that sharply declined following their re-election.

Another issue to consider is one of judicial bias — not toward the people, as-such, but toward those who are funders, or otherwise their political “heavyweights.”  For example, the justices of the Michigan State Supreme Court enjoy election, and while on the ballot as non-partison, the individuals are nominated for the ballot by the party.  This not only lends to possible bias, but even “judicial gerrymandering.”  All it would take is one “bought” justice to walk to the offices of all the others and say “Look, I’m facing a re-election battle, this guy could pull out on me if we rule unfavorably against him.”

Possible?

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s