Judicial elections, democratic appointment (e.g., senate confirmation), and the Missouri Plan (a/k/a "merit selection")

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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Call for South Carolina to Changes its Method of Judicial Selection

South Carolina judicial selection.

A South Carolina news organization, the Hilton Head Island Packet, points out that South Carolina is one of only two states (Virginia is the other) in which the legislature appoints all judges from the state supreme court on down.   "And the state's Judicial Merit Selection Commission, whose 10 members nominate judges, is composed of six lawmakers.  As if that isn't legislator overkill, three of the state's top lawmakers appoint the 10 members on the commission. The result: By the time a state judge ascends the bench in South Carolina, they're beholden to lawmakers in ways that do not serve the public and work directly against the notion of judicial independence."  In contrast to South Carolina, judges in many states (like federal judges) are appointed in a process that requires the consent of both the other two branches: legislative and executive.  Separation of powers. 

The Island Packet argues "South Carolina could consider a merit-based system, similar to Florida's For appellate judge appointments, the governor chooses from a list recommended by the Judicial Nominating Commission (whose members are not selected by the legislature).  When the justices' terms expire, their names appear on the general election ballot for a merit retention vote. If a majority of voters do not support retaining a judge, the governor appoints a replacement who has been screened by the commission."  I point out the problems with this system here and here.

The Island Packet continues: "While some states employ a direct popular election, this too is problematic, as lawyers who appear before them are apt to be large campaign donors. Turning judges into politicians is not the fix.  Another possibility: Model the state's system after the federal one. The governor would nominate, and legislators would advise and consent. At the very least, no judge would be beholden to just one governmental branch."  I agree.

Read more here: http://www.islandpacket.com/2013/12/02/2825881/sc-should-check-how-judges-are.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.islandpacket.com/2013/12/02/2825881/sc-should-check-how-judges-are.html#storylink=cpy

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