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States Move Away from Elections in Choosing Judges

4 years ago
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In an effort to reduce the influence of special interests on the judicial system, more states are changing their rules on how judges are selected and moving away from elections.

Thirty-nine states elect judges, a practice critics, including Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, say can breed corruption. They are calling for all judges to be appointed.

Last week, Gov. Joe Manchin of West Virginia signed a law adopting public financing for judicial elections, USA Today reported. Wisconsin created a public financing system for state Supreme Court races late last year.

The nonpartisan group, Justice at Stake, said candidates for high courts raised $206.4 million for campaigns from 2000 through 2009, more than double the previous decade. Outside interests spent an additional $39.3 million on campaign ads in judicial elections over the past 10 years.

A number of other states are considering changes to the system, according to USA Today, including:

Minnesota. A bill would let voters change the state's constitution to allow the governor to appoint judges to eight-year terms. If the change is made, voters would decide whether to retain those appointed judges. But competitive elections would be banned.

Nevada. Voters will decide a constitutional amendment in November to allow the governor to appoint judges.

Michigan. The state Supreme Court adopted rules in November 2009 that allow the seven-member panel to decide whether one of its members should step aside in a case involving a potential conflict of interest.

Supporters of judicial elections say the process is important to the democratic process. "Elections give people the final authority on holding judges accountable," Dan Pero of The American Justice Partnership told the newspaper.

Filed Under: Supreme Court

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