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Should Judges Campaign?

- September 8, 2008

bq. The key and crucial question of judicial elections is this: If judges must (not can, but must) rely on their own pre-existing judicial attitudes in making decisions on the bench, do voters have the right to know about these attitudes and to base their voting decisions on policy agreement with the candidates for judicial office?

That is the question posed by political scientist James Gibson in the Miller-McCune magazine. His evidence — discussed by Lee here — suggests that voters do want to know the policy views of judicial candidates and do not equate these views with a lack of impartiality. And, while Gibson acknowledges that more evidence is necessary, he writes:

bq. But the void in our knowledge should not be filled by supposition, assumption or ideological deduction — and especially not by hasty and even stealthy efforts to “reform” systems of selecting and retaining judges in the U.S. Perhaps most important, a mythical view of judging, which proposes that judges are nothing more than legal technicians, should not be allowed to structure our thinking about the methods we use to select and retain judges.

Find the piece here.