What's Law Got to Do with It? What Judges Do, Why They Do It, and What's at Stake

By Charles Gardner Geyh | Go to book overview

9
On the Cataclysm of
Judicial Elections and Other
Popular Antidemocratic Myths

Melinda Gann Hall

A perfect storm of hardball TV ads, millions in campaign contributions and
bare-knuckled special interest politics is descending on a growing number
of Supreme Court campaigns. The stakes involve nothing less than the fair-
ness and independence of courts in the 38 states that elect their high court
judges
.

—Goldberg, Samis, Bender, and Weiss (2005, vi).

ACATACLYSM IN American state judiciaries is imminent, according to some of the nation’s most prominent court reform organizations and legal scholars, in the guise of competitive elections for the high court bench and the campaigns that accompany them. But are expensive, hardfought elections really signaling the demise of the integrity of state judiciaries and the public’s acceptance of state judicial power?

In sharp contradistinction to the menacing characterizations of the democratic process dominating public advocacy on this subject and the attacks designed to end judicial elections altogether or to impair their effectiveness, I argue that there is no compelling evidence to suggest the need to replace democratic processes with selection schemes divorced from meaningful citizen participation. There are, however, significant issues meriting attention where viewpoints grounded in empirical reality would balance doomsday rhetoric and promote a more measured dialogue about how best to staff the state court bench.

Most critical is the need to examine the scientific record, or facts that should already be in evidence but instead have been obfuscated or ignored. Remark

-223-

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