Tort reformers regularly claim that an elected judiciary leads to an out of control judicial system and unfair results. They claim that if judges were appointed by policticians, rather than elected by the people, the judiciary would somehow be more fair. The argument is really a ploy by those in power, business and insurance interests, to take the power to elect judges out of the hands of normal working people. Appointing judges puts the power into the hands of the politicians that big business interests have donated a lot of money to. There is only one person voting when judges are appointed.
The power we are talking about is basically the power of an entire branch of government, one-third of our tri-partite system, the judiciary. The advantage judicial appointments hold over elections, is that big business can whisper the judge’s name into the ear of the politician with the power to appoint, and that judge is elected to the bench. The public has no power in the process. Unlike elections, which are transparent and provide a forum to discuss the qualifications and ideas of the candidates – appointed judges aren’t scrutinized by the public.
KSTP in Minnisota reports there is a current push in Minnesota to switch to appointment of judges. According to a report from the Herald-Dispatch the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce is pushing the measure in West Virginia – appointment of judges has already been debated in the legislature. West Virginia has been on the US Chamber of Commerce/ATRA’s list of judicial hellholes for a while. Obviously the bullying by these groups is working.
Appointment of judicial officials appears to be one of the main areas of focus for tort reformers this year. I’m sure there will be more to report on this issue.