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

Judicial selection and other videos

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Sunday, December 28, 2014

California Supreme Court Appointments by Governor Jerry Brown

California's supreme court nominating process is an unusual form of democratic appointment because the governor's nominees are confirmed, not by the state senate, but by a three-person "Commission on Judicial Appointments" comprised of the state's Chief Justice, Attorney General, and a senior presiding justice of the state's Court of Appeal. 

But it is still democratic appointment so it functions well to gradually move the court left or right with the long-term inclinations of the citizenry.  And if the court moves too far for the citizenry's tastes, the voters can remove judges at a retention election, which is what happened the first time Jerry Brown was governor of California.  As the NY Times puts it, "
he set out to reshape the powerful California Supreme Court by appointing its first female chief justice. But his pick, Rose Bird, had never served as a judge before and came to be perceived as a liberal ideologue. Ms. Bird, along with two other judges Mr. Brown named to the court, was recalled by voters in an election in 1986."

It is now nearly 40 years later and Brown is again governor and again has named three people to the seven-member Supreme Court — the latest confirmed on Monday.  Of these three, the NY Times writes,  "not one had a day of judicial experience: Two are law professors and the third is an associate attorney general in the Justice Department. They are all graduates of the same law school — Yale — which also counts among its alumni a California lawyer who made a career in politics, Mr. Brown.
Mr. Brown’s most recent choice, Leondra R. Kruger, the associate attorney general, lives in Washington and has never practiced law in California."

More from the Times "Under California law, the governor nominates justices, and, assuming they are approved by the commission, they appear on the ballot every 12 years for an up-or-down vote."

Other views of California judicial selection including Brown's nominee's to the CA SCT.

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