Judicial Selection1104

Judicial Selection

By Jonathan Griffin Vol . 19, No. 19 / April-May 2011

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States use one of three main approaches to select judges.

Ensuring that the judiciary remains an impartial and honest branch is one of the most important priorities in American government. To maintain high standards for judicial conduct, state officials have a duty to ensure their process for judicial selection is free from negative influences. Today, states use three main approaches to select judges:  election, merit selection and gubernatorial appointment.

Merit- vs. election-based judicial selection. Judicial scholars debate the pros and cons of merit- vs. election-based judicial selection plans. Merit selection advocates assert that contested elections raise serious ethical dilemmas for judges and potential judges. They contend that, when judges accept campaign contributions from special interest groups and lawyers who potentially could appear before them in court, it creates the appearance of impropriety. In addition, those who support merit selection contend the 2002 ruling in Republican Party of Minnesota v. White increased the role of politics in judicial selection. In White and subsequent state court decisions, it was ruled that judicial candidates are allowed to discuss their political views, even in states that have a nonpartisan election. By allowing judges to associate with a political party, merit selection proponents claim voters are less likely to make decisions based on a judge’s record, and instead decide along party lines.


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