Sandra Day O’Connor on merit selection of judges

Her op-ed in the NYT is here. I think it is worth reading:

In our system, the judiciary, unlike the legislative and the executive branches, is supposed to answer only to the law and the Constitution. Courts are supposed to be the one safe place where every citizen can receive a fair hearing.

In a merit selection system, a nonpartisan nominating commission interviews and investigates applicants for judicial vacancies, and ultimately recommends a few candidates to the governor. The governor appoints one from the list. Regular “retention” elections are held to allow voters to decide whether to keep the judge in office.

There are those who assert that this system benefits legal insiders, because lawyers will inevitably dominate the nominating commissions, which would hold their meetings in secret. But to the extent that this could be a real problem, Arizona has already demonstrated how to avoid it. In that state, nominating commissions are dominated by non-lawyers, and their meetings are open. Candidates’ applications are available online, and the public is invited to comment.

Another argument against this system is that it deprives voters of the chance to choose their judges. But the truth is, in those states that elect judges, candidates often run unopposed, so voters are left with no options, and little information about the people who are on the ballot. In a system where judges are evaluated before they are put on the ballot, voters can make their decisions more knowledgeably — with relevant information about the judges’ performance on the bench.

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One thought on “Sandra Day O’Connor on merit selection of judges

  1. […] Sandra Day O'Connor on merit selection of judges « Ducks and Economics […]

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