George Soros vs. Judicial Elections; Stripping People of Power, Giving Lawyers Control of Courts

Article excerpt

Byline: Dan Pero, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

During the past decade, a lavishly funded, highly coordinated campaign has been under way to shift America's judiciary fundamentally to the left by keeping conservative judges off state courts. This campaign is being orchestrated and funded by the Open Society Institute (OSI), the political arm of billionaire hedge-fund manager George Soros. According to a study released this week by the American Justice Partnership, OSI has spent at least $45.4 million to promote the so-called merit selection system and reduce the influence of citizens and their elected representatives when it comes to picking judges.

Approximately 95 percent of civil disputes in the United States wind up in state courts, giving the judges who hear these cases enormous influence over our lives, property and business affairs. The authors of our state constitutions recognized the need for a check on this power, which is why 39 states hold some form of judicial elections. The goal was to balance the virtues of independence and accountability in the judiciary by requiring judges to assume office by the consent of the people.

Under merit selection, however, the power to select judges is transferred from the people to a small, unelected, unaccountable commission made up primarily of legal elites - and is often stacked with representatives of powerful special-interest groups such as state trial lawyers' associations. The plan is sold as a way to keep politics out of America's courtrooms, but it merely shifts politics to the backrooms where merit selection committees meet outside of public view to determine who will control our courts.

The best way to understand merit selection is to consider what would happen if the federal system for selecting judges was modified by requiring the president to choose a Supreme Court nominee served up by the American Trial Lawyers Association and the American Bar Association. Imagine a committee made up of seven people - three lawyers from the American Bar Association, three lawyers from the American Trial Lawyers Association, and Ed Feulner of the Heritage Foundation thrown in to prove that this committee is nonpartisan.

Does anyone seriously believe there's a chance that committee would give us a Justice Antonin Scalia, or Clarence Thomas, or Samuel A. Alito Jr. or a Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. - or any nominee whose judicial philosophy is to follow strictly the Constitution and the law? That, in a nutshell, is what merit selection has become in our states - a rigged game that puts legal special interests in charge of choosing our state judges.

OSI's $45 million (and counting) judiciary campaign is run by another Soros-grantee organization, called Justice at Stake. …