Time to change judicial elections

Evan Koslow

Evan Koslow

With the primary elections behind us know, I thought it would be a good time to stir up some conversation regarding the election, specifically the judicial elections. 

Obviously, all elections are highly talked about events on all levels, especially since 2016. No matter what party you may affiliate yourself with, I am guessing you probably do not agree with certain aspects of how the election process work. 

Although we will never have a perfect election system, our system of electing for circuit court judges (the only judicial level that requires a non-retention election) can improve drastically. 

(The current process of how a circuit court judge is appointed can be found here.)

Allowing anyone who passed the bar to run for circuit court judge will not ensure the circuit courts in the State have the best judges to hear cases and make decisions. However, the secrecy and somewhat political campaigning that goes on to appoint our circuit court judges needs some improvement. 

Speaking with some colleagues and other individuals in the legal profession, I have heard some other good suggestions. Each county, for example, has an odd number of individuals (say, 13) on the judicial nominating committee (which sends a list of judicial candidates to the governor to choose from to fill vacancies) of which six are appointed by the local bar association and the other seven from the judiciary-related committees in the General Assembly. They would then be required to provide a list of judicial candidates to the governor to choose from.

Once appointed, that judge would go through a similar process federal judges go through to get appointed (approval of the legislature) and, if a judge obtains a super-majority of approval (75 percent or more) then there would be no election. If the judge does not obtain a super-majority, however, then an election would occur  — but only with those that were on the list of possible candidates sent to the governor, with the public being able to see those individuals’ applications and any other information that was used by the committee.

Another suggestion is to have individuals chosen by the judicial committee participate in a town hall meeting where a vote would take place immediately thereafter.   

I am not saying either suggestion is perfect but I do think it would be a significant improvement of the judicial election system we have now.

What are your thoughts?

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