While I very much agree with Judge Juan Colas’ decision on collective bargaining, I also very much agree with the sentiments of the Wisconsin State Journal about the need for merit selection of justices.
I have used this blog as a vehicle to advance the idea of merit selection.
On this blog I have railed against the actions of Supreme Court Justice Annette Ziegler due to her ethical lapses as a circuit judge in Washington County. I have grave concerns about the message her presence on the bench sends not only to the Badger State, but also around the nation. Meanwhile I had strong words of opposition over Michael Gableman, as I view him as an empty vessel without the intellectual heft that is required for the very important work on the court. In both cases, but for different reasons, these individuals are seriously flawed, and as a result the state judiciary suffers.
The fact that each of these individuals had the right to place their name on the ballot, raise huge amounts of money from special interest sources, and manipulate the voters with never-ending TV commercials in no way means that once elected they have the necessary skills or ethics to well serve the public, or the letter of the law. The manner in which they ran for the bench does 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 are shrinking there should be ideas advanced that would reverse that sad downward trend. Merit selection is one idea that should be considered to make our State Supreme Court better, and also to assure the citizenry that qualified jurists are at work.
Today the WSJ had another reason with Judge Colas to advance this matter.
That’s not to say Colas made the wrong decision. We’ll leave the complicated legal arguments over Act 10 to the courts. Nor do we know if Colas allowed politics or public pressure to affect his decision.
The point is that Colas, as an elected judge, risks his job if he makes a decision voters don’t like. And in this case, voters in union-loving Dane County loved Colas’ determination that Walker’s curbs on unions were unconstitutional.
So Colas should have an easy time winning re-election in 2015. Had he upheld Walker’s law, Colas would have drawn aggressive opposition.
It’s not supposed to be this way.
Electing judges — especially at the high court level — isn’t working in Wisconsin. Neither is the system of allowing governors to unilaterally appoint justices to fill vacancies.
The bipartisan push by Sens. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, and Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, for a better system of appointing high court justices deserves support. Called merit selection, it would insulate the process from politics (as much as possible) and prevent governors from stacking the high court with cronies.