News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Continue electing judges, but remove party labels

Anybody who believes appointing judges, rather than electing them, would remove the politics should observe the jockeying in Washington about President Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.

Both Republicans and Democrats are trying to determine whether Ms. Miers would vote their way on controversial issues. Most senators, if they became convinced that she disagreed with them on a crucial issue like abortion, would find an excuse to vote against confirming her. For this reason, she and the president are keeping her opinions under wraps.

And don't think politics was not involved in Mr. Bush's decision to nominate her. He rewarded her for long and loyal service to him in Texas and Washington. She may be well-qualified, but no real effort was made to find the best-qualified person in the country.

In Alabama, we elect our state judges. But the Alabama State Bar wants to change this method for the Supreme Court and the two courts of appeals.

This lawyers' group — noting that special interests spend millions of dollars trying to elect judges they like — says its plan would restore public confidence in the fairness of the judiciary.

The State Bar would have the governor appoint appellate judges from nominees selected by a committee consisting of five lawyers and four non-lawyers. Eventually, the people would vote on whether to keep each judge in office. If they voted him or her out, somebody else would be appointed.

This plan would reduce campaign spending, but Washington's example suggests that it would not make judge selection more merit-based or reduce outside influence.

So here's a way to cut campaign costs and lessen partisanship while letting the state's voters continue to elect their judges:

Make judicial elections (both local and appellate) nonpartisan. This would eliminate one or more rounds of elections and make candidates accountable to the voters at large, rather than a partisan segment of the voters, in every election.

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