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November 04, 2014

Enough is enough. Let's put an end to the practice in 38 states of electing judges.

Today, Americans are voting in mid-term federal elections for all House seats and one-third of the U.S. Senate seats. Moreover, except in Louisiana--with its general election in early December--voters in each state are voting for candidates for office in a extraordinarily wide variety of state, county, municipal and local elections. Unfortunately, voters in 37 (Louisiana the exception, again) of the 38 states that popularly elect judges will also participate today in those contests.

The popular election of state judges in all of these states is a bad practice and should come to an end. Anyone who has read my writings in various newspapers and legal periodicals over the past 20 years, or has read this blog since three Hull McGuire lawyers started it nine years ago, knows that our firm prefers whenever possible to do its business litigation in federal courts--where judges are appointed on the basis of merit and, in our view, do appreciably better work as jurists than their state counterparts--and regards state courts as unpredictable and often dysfunctional venues to be avoided.

Regular readers also know that our problem with state courts is that most of them are filled at all levels with judges who are elected. We won't repeat all of our arguments here. Suffice to say that popular elections of judges does two unproductive things. First, in effect, they give successful candidates "constituents". Second, citizens and litigants are given the impression that justice is "for sale." America outgrew electing state judges generations ago, and to continue this practice is wrong. See, also, "Is that a state judge in your pocket? Or you just hugely happy to see me?". Judges should be appointed on a merit system by people who know how to identify and evaluate the excellent lawyers we want on the bench.

Posted by JD Hull at November 4, 2014 12:13 AM

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