Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Why we don't elect judges in Virginia

This Washington Post column highlights some of the egregious campaigns around the U.S. for judicial positions. Increasingly, judicial campaigns are becoming more like general elections with attack ads on TV, negative campaigning, and candidates expressing a position on issues that may come before them. Yet, a recent study indicates that the public would rather elect judges than have them appointed, although that same study revealed that the public distrusts a system where judges received campaign contributions for those elections. The study findings were summarized as follows: "Roughly 80% of the public prefers to select its judges by election and does so. Roughly 80% of the electorate does not vote in judicial elections. Roughly 80% of the electorate cannot identify the candidates for judicial office, and roughly 80% of the public believes that when judges are elected, their decisions are influenced by the campaign contributions they receive." The controversies we have each year in Virginia with the political overtones of judicial selections pale to those we would encounter with judicial elections.