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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Justice, bought and paid for?

The process of electing judges -- such as the way we do it here in Oregon -- has always made me uncomfortable. Here's a case before the U.S. Supreme Court that shows why.

Comments (8)

Yet if appointed by the governor you get the bias of the party, even though a legislature OK's the appointment.
Politics is just a dirty business.

It's all politics, but to make the judges campaign for office gets them too close to the money.

I agree that a close relationship between $$ and judges is a bad thing. On the other hand, most judges in Oregon are appointed and then run unopposed election after election. The scary thing is that people rarely have the guts to challenge bad sitting judges.

It reads just like "The Appeal" by John Grisham

Echoing "E" above, in a way.

The alternative (appointments, as I see it) is attractive until I think about the bad US Supreme Court Justices (eg Alito, Thomas, Scalia) that we'll be stuck with until they die.

I don't know what the fix is. I'll admit I'm not smart enough to come up with one.

But I'm one of the few people who actually look down the list of judges (who are almost always running unopposed) and conciously vote for them. Me and my wife try to find out what we can about them. It's hard to do sometimes.

Hey Prof Jack,

As an insider, you can shed some light. Why is it that so many judges run unopposed? Is it because if an attorney challenges a sitting judge, but loses, all of his cases will be toast whenever he is in front of that judge?

I think the current system is that a sitting judge who is about to retire, waits till just before the election then resigns. Then the Gov appoints his successor who runs (usually unopposed) as an incumbent. I first became aware of this age old tradition some years ago. If I recall correctly, long time tenant advocate Michael Marcus was appointed just a few days before the filing deadline for his seat. He as been a judge now for nearly 20 years.

I agree the whole system on how we get judges needs a work over. Elections should be run with public money only to avoid the situation like in that article. Also, something needs to be done so that qualified lawyers are not afraid to run against a sitting judge.

This last election cycle was the first time a sitting judge was actually voted out in 20 something years. The guy that did was told by all his colleagues that he was nuts for even trying (heard an interview with him).

Maybe term limits on Judges? Also make it so the governors appointment can't run the next cycle?

In my opinion term limits and doing away with elections are not viable solutions. Working within the existing frame work to challenge judges who fail to recuse themselves in cases where there is a clear conflict of interest is the best option. Hopefully the Supremes get this one right.

Very few in the bar have the motivation to take on a sitting judge. Getting your name recognized by voters costs lots of money. The job itself pays a salary that is significantly less than the income earned by most experienced lawyers, so almost nobody wants to spend their own money running for a job that will probably pay half of what they currently earn. Sitting judges have to screw up in a big way to lose their jobs, since voters assume they must be doing a good job unless they have reason to believe otherwise. In my experience lay people who have little contact with the court system hold sitting judges in very high esteem.

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