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Is it time for states to stop electing judges?
After the controversial Wisconsin Supreme Court race, some commentators say we ought to quit letting the public pick justices
 
After a contentious Wisconsin Supreme Court election that could decide the fate of Gov. Scott Walker's controversial anti-union bill, some say we ought to stop picking judges through politicized elections.
After a contentious Wisconsin Supreme Court election that could decide the fate of Gov. Scott Walker's controversial anti-union bill, some say we ought to stop picking judges through politicized elections.
CC BY: rochelle hartman

Wisconsin's hotly contested Supreme Court election is nearing a conclusion, as county officials wrap up a review of the ballots. The April 5 vote between Republican David Prosser and Democrat JoAnne Kloppenburg took on national significance, as the outcome will determine whether conservatives or liberals hold the majority when the court rules on Gov. Scott Walker's (R-Wis.) bid to restrict the rights of labor unions. But the race's partisan nature — and the $3.5 million spent by outside groups — has some wondering if judicial elections are poisoning our courts with politics. Thirty-nine states elect at least some of their judges. Should they reconsider?

Justice is being skewed by political bias: "Something disturbing is happening in American courts," says The Charlotte Observer in an editorial. Judicial nominees in Wisconsin, Iowa, and elsewhere are being targeted by "political partisans and religious pressure groups." That's wrong. We shouldn't pick judges based on their beliefs on abortion or religion or politics — what matters is that they know the law and apply it impartially.
"A recipe for an even more biased judiciary"

Justices should be chosen by gubernatorial appointment: The "big-money political mud fest" in Wisconsin proves that the current system is broken, says Wisconsin's Journal-Sentinel in an editorial. It would be better to let governors appoint judges — but not "out of the blue" with "purely partisan or ideological motivations." Instead, a nonpartisan commission should nominate a pool of qualified candidates from which the governor could choose.
"Appoint the justices"

No, we just need to better educate the public: Face it, says James Wigderson at the MacIver Institute, "democracy is necessarily messy." And allowing a commission to decide which candidates are suitable to vote for would only make the system less accountable. "Just who watches the watchmen?" It would be far better to "work to convince the public of the criteria that should be used in selecting a Supreme Court justice," than to do away with judicial elections entirely.
"We should not minimize public input on judicial selection"

 

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