Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Appoint, don't elect, Texas judges

As reported by Don Cruse, Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson used his annual "State of the Judiciary" address to call for reform in how the state's judges are chosen. Consistent with the Chief Justice's position, legislation pending in the Texas General Assembly would have voters decide whether to change the state constitution to create a system of appointments and retention elections. It is unlikely that such legislation will see the light of day

While the proposal is better than the current system, and, as a result, I would support it, I don't think it really goes far enough. Judges should not be subject to election by voters. They should be appointed.

Here is why: judges have very different jobs than legislators or executive branch officials. While judicial biases are inevitable -- judges are, after all, human --some sense of impartiality of the courts is crucial to the legitimacy of our legal system.

This means that it is unethical for judges to campaign on what they would do if elected. This turns judicial elections into a farce.

Judges should be appointed, not elected.

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