Thursday, October 26, 2006


About the Election and Confirming of Judges

Here in California, as in most States, we vote on whether to keep a judge in office or not. We also elect judges to empty posts. We, the voters, are trusted with this rather awesome responsibility. The thought is that judges should be accountable for bad or wrong or just unpopular opinions. Many years ago a judge was denied reelection because he had just made a correct but very unpopular decision regarding school busing. People were very much upset over busing back about 1980. Not only was this judge voted out of office, but my local Congressman, whom I admired greatly, was voted out because he took an unpopular but correct position on busing.

But enough of ancient history. Today as I look at my sample ballot I find that I am to vote on whether to retain in office a passel of judges. These are all State judges, on the State Supreme Court and on two divisions of the Appellate Court. I don't know squat about these individuals. I don't remember reading anything about them. I don't know what decisions they have made since they were appointed or elected or confirmed in office. Judges don't campaign for reelection. Well, not exactly. Some do. Some judges or candidates for judge in the county court make appearances at meetings of political clubs, hoping to obtain some favorable votes at the election. I don't know what else they do.

My point is, I can't decide what to do. Perhaps I should just leave the part of the ballot blank where the judges are listed. That would be the honest approach. Let those individuals who know something about a judge vote on whether to elect or confirm him or her.

But then it struck me. The people most likely to vote about a judge are those who have a grudge against him. The judge has made a decision that infuriates them. They will try to vote him out of office. Most of the rest of us, if we knew about the decision, might favor it and regard those who don't like it as soreheads or sore losers. I don't know how the ballots are counted. Is not voting at all for a judge the same as voting against confirming him? If there are five million votes cast, with five votes against a judge and no votes for him, is he then put out of office? Does it take a majority of total votes cast to unseat a judge or is it just a majority of votes cast for and against a particular judge? If I don't vote for these judges, they may be voted out of office by a few sore losers. And then, worse still, a newly reelected Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will appoint replacements. I think I would rather keep the judges we have than take my chances on Arnold's replacements. I guess I will vote to confirm all the judges.

Any help out there?
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