Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Elected Judges

An interesting case was argued before the Supreme Court yesterday, one involving the question of when a judge--in this case, an elected judge--should recuse him/herself from a case involving a campaign contributor. As usual, the liberals and the conservatives of the court took to opposite sides of the issue and Anthony Kennedy straddled the muddled middle.

Here's my view: I think the concept of popularly electing judges is a bad one--at any level. While appointed judges at some level of abstraction are beholden to those who appoint them (far less so with lifetime appointments), popular will with respect to judicial appointments should be exercised in a representative manner through city councils and state legislatures. Judges should serve for life or for fixed terms (subject to re-appointment). Popular elections expose jurists to all sorts of charges of conflict of interest (as we see from this case before the Supremes) and in general, turn service on the bench into just another elected office, rather than the position of great trust that it should be.

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