Monday, November 12, 2007

Judicial Elections vs. Appointments

In theory, judicial elections seem like a great idea -- judges are accountable; it's democratic; we're not stuck with a bad judge for life...

But in practice, here in South Florida, judicial elections in the state system are problematic.

The biggest problem (at least for the lawyers) is campaign season. Everyone is asking for money for this fundraiser or that fundraiser even though the elections are a year away and even though most candidates do not have any challenger. Is it me or is this election cycle the earliest and most intense yet?

Then the election itself is not based on any particular position of the candidate. Candidates can't campaign on their personal beliefs. And it's not based on who is better qualified. There is really no rhyme or reason as to who gets elected.

Plus, it's difficult to tell why certain candidates draw opposition and others don't. Those with the lowest bar ratings oftentimes don't draw opposition, while those with the highest do. Many argue that the choices as to where to run are based largely on race and gender.

Don't get me wrong -- the federal system has its flaws too. It's nearly impossible to get rid of a bad judge, and robeitis (the disease that many lawyers get when they become judges) is particularly acute in the federal system. But I'll take the federal system of choosing judges any day to elections.

As a side note, the concern about politicizing the process is a valid concern, but look at Charlie Crist. He has made superb appointments in the state system, and they have been party-blind appointments.

What about elections from a small group of pre-qualified candidates? Or the state appellate system where voters could remove a poorly functioning judge? Thoughts?


Anonymous said...

Are you for real? You really believe Nushin Sayfie was chosen for her qualifications? It was just a coincidence her husband raised all that cash for Crist? Wake up David.

South Florida Lawyers said...


Do tell.

Anonymous said...

There will be a fund raiser for Judge Reemberto Diaz tomorrow night at Martini Bar in South Miami. Come show up and bemoan the election season.

Anonymous said...

They should be elected as well as allowed to campaign. It's hard to get real information about the judges unless you're involved in the legal system. The average person who votes probably has never heard about these judges unless they've been in the news for something magnificently wrong.

During elections, all people see are billboards and flyers but they never have real information about the judges. People seldom know what they stand for, what their past records have been, or anything but their names for that matter. Judges are seldom commended or scorned by the media. They're in limbo. They practically go unnoticed unless they cover a major case.

The problem isn't elections v. appointments, it's the lack of information people get.

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid that in Miami-Dade, I've heard too many people cop to voting for or against a judge simply by the ethnicity of the judge's name.

A federal type system of appointments, with term limits or a strict retention vote after a period of time, would be great in an ideal world. But there are so many seats that the process might occupy too much of the Senate's time.

As members of the Bar, we attorneys are officers of the Judicial Branch. I personally wonder whether it wouldn't be unconstitutional to limit retention votes to the members of the Bar? Thoughts?