March 12, 2009
There is a solution, you just don't see it

Sen. John Cornyn, apparently with some free time on his hands, takes his turn tackling the pernicious issue of Democrats winning judicial races - er, the problem of partisan judicial elections. I'll give him credit for this much - he puts his finger on the main issue.

As the cost of political campaigns in Texas increases, particularly for those seeking statewide office, judicial candidates must spend more time raising funds from the narrow set of donors most interested in seeing them on the bench.

The demands of fundraising are especially corrosive for the judiciary. Campaigns for legislative or executive office typically are supported by a broad donor base with a wide variety of interests, making it less likely that the interests of one group will dominate to the disadvantage of the general public. Judicial elections, by contrast, are funded largely by the lawyers and other interest groups most likely to appear in court or be directly affected by judicial decisions.

But like his fellow alarmist Justice Wallace Jefferson, he doesn't follow this trail of bread crumbs to the obvious solution, which is stricter campaign contribution limits for judicial candidates, plus a public finance system for judicial races. (He also doesn't acknowledge the fact that the all-Republican Supreme Court, of which he was once a member, is one of the more egregious offenders on this score.) He doesn't actually propose a solution, he just lists the usual suggestions, including appointment-and-retention (which as I've noted before would still have the same players getting involved) and making these elections non-partisan (ditto). It's fascinating to see the same rather large blind spot, but when you think about it, it's not surprising. After all, once you realize what problem it is that they're trying to solve, then their proposed solutions make sense.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 12, 2009 to Show Business for Ugly People

Why are we electing judges in the first place?

Other states, like Arizona, have moved away from electing judges. So should Texas. It is simply too ripe for corruption.

Posted by: Appetitus Rationi Pareat on March 12, 2009 3:44 PM

We should keep electing our judges. The vast majority of states elect judges.

The election of judges by voters in Texas is not corrupt. What could be corrupt is an appointment process.

Any negatives about the current election process in Texas can be managed with reforms such as campaign finance reform. For example, a law that does not allow an attorney or his client to contribute to a judge if that attorney or client currently has a case pending in that court.

The United States Supreme Court has a case right now where they are deciding if judges should excuse themselves from cases where a donation was made by someone involved in the case. The Supreme Court's decision could be a helpful guide.

Posted by: cb on March 12, 2009 7:20 PM

Well, apart from the corruption or the hint of corruption is the fact that most people do not know enough about the law to elect judges. Honestly, I don't think we should be electing DA's either.

We do not elect federal judges. We do not elect the US Attorney General. We do not elect US Attorneys. The founders knew that such direct political control of the legal system leads to corruption and rulings based on political theory, not justice and reason.

In the end, politics should influence the appointment of these public officers, just as politics influences the appointment of other public officials that are the nuts and bolts of our government. But having the public elect every single judge, magistrate, justice of the peace and lowly prosecutor makes these positions directly subservient to the political wills of the masses; the frankly, very uninformed masses I might add. The law should not be directly controlled by politics. It should be controlled by the law, reason and justice for the individual and society as a whole.

Posted by: Appetitus Rationi Pareat on March 13, 2009 9:37 AM
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