Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Judicial Elections and Hope in WA-04

Every day I become increasingly convinced that judges simply should not be elected. Think about it, when we vote for politicians (or, more to the point, when we vote *against* politicians) we do so to express an opinion on their performance (or that of their opponents). But neither of these should be the case for judges, particularly those on the State Supreme Court. Mere dissatisfaction with rulings shouldn't be sufficient - the courts exist to apply the law equitably (hopefully leading to a just outcome) regardless of the popularity of the given conclusion. Those decisions should NOT be influenced by public opinion on the subject.

Clearly there is a tension here. We want judges to be appointed through an apolitical process, but we must have checks on them, to ensure their rulings are within mainstream judicial philosophy. That said, popular elections seem to be about the worst available method of accomplishing that. Most voters are unfamiliar with the workings of the legal system, leaving them susceptible to gross distortions propagated through campaign materials, campaign materials which can be bought and paid for by groups seeking to improve their chances before the Court. The Legislature, at least, offers a venue that has a better understanding of the legal system than the general populace, but is still accountable to the public. Look for this change on the 12th of Never.


I also promised a bit of hope, and that comes from Washington's 4th Congressional District, where Doc Hastings (R) is facing a challenge from Richard Wright (D). Hastings has been a particularly notorious member of the Washington State delegation to the House of Representatives, receiving a 0% rating from NARAL, Pro-Choice America, a 0% rating from the American Civil Liberties Union, and (are you ready for this?) an astounding 0% rating from the League of Conservation Voters. Yes, this plays quite well to his constituency in central and southern Washington State, but a recent internal poll from the Wright campaign suggests that Hasting's support from the district is very weak. If you can, consider contributing to Wright's election bid and help them get the word out.

Good heavens, Dems have a shot at taking down Hastings? The end is nigh...

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