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Wisconsin Should Listen To Sandra Day O’Connor

September 15, 2009

Over the past decade Wisconsin has seen an increase in the tension and cost of electing members to the Supreme Court.  In the recent past we have elected after vitriol-filled campaigns Annette Zielger and Michael Gableman, both controversial candidates to the court.  The manner in which they ran for the bench did not enhance the image of the court, or benefit our judicial system.  The current electoral flaws that allow a Ziegler or a Gableman to become a justice sends the wrong message about how importantly we should view our judicial system.  At a time when public approval of our government and public institutions shrinks there should be ideas advanced that would reverse that sad downward trend.

Merit selection is one such remedy that would put the brakes on the downward slope that electoral politics is taking the Supreme Court.  I was very pleased to read that Sandra Day O’Connor, a former member of the United States Supreme Court, made an intelligent plea for merit selection while speaking in Washington.

The first woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court says there’s a serious problem with the government in Washington and many other states: They elect their judges.

Retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor spoke Monday at a Seattle University Law School conference. She told a sold-out audience that threats to judicial independence are rising exponentially as more and more money pours into judicial races around the country.

O’Connor said she advocates a system by which nonpartisan commissions select judges based on their merit. At the end of a judge’s term, voters could decide whether to retain them.

Multimillion-dollar judicial campaigns make it difficult to know whether a judge is deciding a case based on the merits or on concerns about reelection, she said.

She noted that the founders of the country believed it crucially important that federal judges have the freedom to make unpopular decisions without worrying about poll numbers. It was only after President Andrew Jackson’s election in 1828 that he persuaded states to begin adopting elections for judges.

Referring to cases such as Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 Supreme Court decision that outlawed school segregation, O’Connor said, “Consider whether those hugely unpopular decision would have come to pass if judges had to stand for upcoming elections.”

4 Comments
  1. September 16, 2009 9:50 AM

    Your ridiculous one-sided bias never ceases to amaze. Liberal special interests, especially the teachers unions, sleaze up elections every bit as much. Only you never seem to mention that.

  2. September 15, 2009 11:26 AM

    Yes.

  3. Ferrell Gummitt permalink
    September 15, 2009 11:10 AM

    Is Justice O’Connor talking on a state level only then and not on a federal level?

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