Furthermore, campaigns compromise judicial integrity because “unpopular decisions shorten careers” and campaign contributions chiefly come from likely litigants. Gene Nichol, Better Justice, by Appointment, Raleigh, N.C. News- Observer, May 10, 2001.
Article reports that the Texas House Judicial Affairs Committee has approved a bill changing the state’s selection of appellate judges from election to appointment. Previous bills have been defeated due to the opposition of Committee Chairwoman Senfronia Thompson (D.), who believed that minorities fared best in an elective system. Thompson, however, has now changed her opinion. According to the article, the bill faces an uphill battle because House deadlines require that it be scheduled for debate by next week. Janet Elliott, Bill to Appoint Top Appellate Judges Clears Hurdle, Houston Chronicle, May 16, 2001.
Judicial elections have given rise to “influence scandals and obscenely expensive campaigns.” At the same time, the public’s influence in determining who will actually serve on the bench is weaker than usually recognized: “nearly 280 visiting judges -- jurists who voluntarily retired, along with some who were voted from office . . . -- handled thousands of cases during the last fiscal year.” In addition, “a good 40 percent of the more than 500 judges sitting on the district and appeals courts were first appointed to those jobs before ever facing voters.” Considering proposals for merit selection, the columnist responds, “that’s not too different from what happens already.” Linda P. Campbell, Judicial Selection is Overlooked -- Again, Fort Worth (Tx.) Star-Telegram, May 31, 2001.
Article reports that several states have initiated efforts to “rein in aggressive politicking by judicial candidates, spurred on by last year’s judicial elections, which were fiercer and more expensive than ever.” Geri Palast, Executive Director of Justice at Stake, opines: “There is an understanding that this situation is going to escalate, so it’s a moment when you want to draw a line in the sand.” Some states, such as New York, are planning to provide voter guides, monitor interest-group advertising against judicial candidates, and create campaign oversight panels. Wisconsin and North Carolina are considering full public financing of judicial elections. Susan Armacost, Legislative Director of Wisconsin Right to Life, opposes full public financing: “we don’t want our state tax dollars going to candidates who don’t agree with our positions.” In other states, calls for merit selection are growing, with supporters including Gov. Jo! hn Engler (R., Mi.), Gov. Tom Ridge (R., Pa.), and the chief justices of Michigan, Ohio, and Texas. William Glaberson, States Taking Steps to Rein In Excesses of Judicial Politicking, The New York Times, June 15, 2001.
Column laments that “as usual, efforts to revamp Texas’ judicial selection system died on the vine in this year’s legislative session.” Proposals for merit selection for appellate judges and public financing for judicial candidates failed to gain