Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Judicial Selection by Election and the Rule of Law

A recent federal lawsuit challenges the Alabama electoral process for selection of state judges.  The allegation is that statewide judicial selection assures the failure of minority candidates for the bench. Think Progress reports:

The lawsuit notes that since 1994, every African American candidate that has run for any of the three top courts has lost to a white candidate. Only two black judges have ever been elected to the state Supreme Court, and zero have served on either the Court of Criminal Appeals or the Court of Civil Appeals in the entirety of the state’s history.

State Judicial elections were employed from the very founding of the nation as a way to ensure judicial accountability and counter elitism and political cronyism in judicial selection.  But judges are supposed to be accountable to the rule of law, not to popular sentiment. The string of videos of campaign ads below raise significant questions about judicial fidelity to the rule of law. They seem to use code phrases and images to portray a fidelity to political ideology or religious principles or popular "values."  Some promise "proper" interpretation of the Constitution - whatever that means.

What does it take to get elected to a judicial position?  Is the belief that judges adhere to a "rule of law" just a quaint relic of judicial philosophy?  Or is law inherently constituted of a judge's background, beliefs, upbringing, prejudices, "values," religion, education, political ideology and world view?  Do we know this, implicitly, and cling publicly to the "rule of law" to maintain legitimacy? What do we deduce from these ads?

"Proper" Constitutional Interpretation:

Judges and Faith and Values:

 Judges and Church Participation:

Judges and Life Experience:

No comments:

Post a Comment