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

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Monday, November 16, 2015

Judges' Ideologies

Empirical study by Emory law professor Jonathan Remy Nash uses median prison sentence length imposed by a federal trial judge as a proxy for the judge's ideology and "finds no evidence that senatorial ideology has a statistically significant effect" but finds that "the nominating president's ideology does have a statistically significant effect."

Friday, November 13, 2015

Rhode Island Judicial Selection

The Providence Journal reports dealmaking between the governor and legislature on judicial nominations.

Rhode Island gives its judges life tenure.

I think electing judges is much more problematic than appointment of judges by the executive and legislative branches. I don't think I'd want a constitutional restriction on governors nominating legislators. Particularly on a multi-judge appellate court, a recent ex-legislator or two might be healthy diversity. Deal-making in judicial appointments seems to me generally realistic and positive in a well-functioning separation of powers, as opposed to the naive idea that for each judicial vacancy there will usually be one judicial candidate who is clearly the most meritorious in some objective sense. 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Democrats Win Penn. Supreme Court With Money From Unions and Trial Lawyers

The Daily Call reports two of three open seats "were open because of the resignations of disgraced former justices: in 2013, a Republican convicted of using her taxpayer-paid staff to do political work and, in 2014, a Democrat implicated in the porn email scandal. The other seat became vacant when former Chief Justice Ronald Castille was forced to step down last year after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70."

All three seats on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court went to Democrats after six years Republicans  controlling the court. "The Democratic takeover was fueled by cash provided largely by organized labor and Philadelphia trial lawyers to help sustain TV advertising. Of the record $11.5 million contributed to the seven candidates, Democrats raised three times as much as the Republicans." The Daily Call reports.

The Atlantic's Tyler Bishop bemoans the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's politicization and scandal, but points out "allowing citizens to directly elect judges makes the process more democratic, allows people to engage key issues before the court, and holds judges accountable for their interpretations of the law."