Judicial independence has been argued to be an abstract that can never be achieved. Legal jurists claim that the judiciary can never be independent of control of the executive, or the legislature provided that the justices are appointed by the politicians. The view is held across the judicial and political spectrum. As a consequence, twenty-one states in the United States of America have opted to elected justices of the Supreme Court. The election of the justices of the Supreme Court is can be contracted to the appointive system where the judges were appointed by the governor in the individual states. The election of judges is a controversial matter with critics arguing that the election of judicial officers makes them impartial especially in deciding matters that concern the individuals who funded them for the campaigns.
Adam Skaggs argues that the election of the judges to the state supreme courts compromises the integrity of the judiciary. The view held by the New York University counsel is contradictory to the prime aim of electing judges. Proponents of the election of judges argue that it emancipates the judiciary from control and manipulation by the other component of government such as the legislature and the executive. They further argue that it makes the elected judges accountable to the citizens who elect them into office. Skaggs argues that the campaign spending destroys the credibility of the judges and the public perception on judicial impartiality. The credibility of the court system is put into question.
Skaggs argues that the huge funds that are deployed during the elections of the judges cause them to be susceptible to bias in the event that their financiers are brought before the court. Skaggs seeks to find a solution to the skewed view of the public on the judicial impartiality. He further points out the effects on the increase in campaign spending on the justice system in the state of Texas. From the Skaggs article, it is apparent that the amount that is used in the judicial elections has skyrocketed over the last two decades. The increase can be attributed to television adverts that are run by independent interest groups in order to influence the outcome of the judicial races. The judicial electioneering came into the concern of the wider judiciary in the 1980s when the Chief Justice ordered the formation of the committee of 100 which was tasked with the responsibility of looking for alternative methods of ensuring judicial independence.
According to Skaggs, lawyers and law firms are the greatest financiers of the judicial race and, therefore, the judges will have a tendency of favoring the side that financed them in a court of law. Research on the manner in which the judge’s vote in the event that one of the sides is a fancier showed that one particular judge had voted in favor of the side that had financed him during the judicial race. The same was replicated in the majority of the state Supreme Court rulings. Elected judges are at the risk of becoming depended on the funds that are contributed to him or her, in a judicial race. It has also been argued that a judge is likely to decide a case in favor of the side that has business interests in the case and was also involved in the campaign funding.
Anthony Champagne holds a different opinion concerning the election of judges in the judicial race. In his article, he argues that the Iowa Judicial race was an example of the accountability that is expected on judicial officers. The judges that were eked out of the judicial spectrum had ruled in favor of gay marriages. Gay marriages in Iowa were considered as an anathema by the electorate. The judicial race became an opportunity to edge the deviant judges out of judicial offices. Anthony Champagne, in support of the judicial races, argues that the election of judges is a key component that acts as a precursor in the liberation of the judicial officers from the control and the manipulation of other sectors of the government. It is difficult for a judge to be defeated in the retention elections in the judicial race and, as a result, of that legal scientist are of the view that the election of judges is a new phenomenon in the legal community that expressly guarantees the independence of the judiciary.
Anthony Champagne argues that independent judges are unconstrained policy makers who owe allegiance to no one. They decide cases according to their preferences. Only through an election can an independent judge be tamed in adopting a public policy for the people that he adjudicates. The view that is expressed by the mainstream legal community is that the independent judges decide cases based on his allegiance to the law. The election of the Supreme Court justices makes preferences of the citizens be given more priority in the justice system.
The states that select judicial officers do not have a similar system in the selection of the Supreme Court system. Some states elected the Judges in the court system while other states take the matter entirely to the citizens. The election of the judges involves the appointment, the selection of commissions based on merit and finally the partisan elections of the judges. The modern or contemporary of the modern selection of the judges has shifted from the appointment of judges to the selection of judges based on merit. The appointive system that is used by the majority of the states involves convening a commission of lawyers and other public interest groups to select a candidate for office.
The final selection will be based on the merit of the judges before the commission. A list of the most qualified judges is then forwarded to the governor who then appoints the judges from the list presented to him. The retention races of the judges are a walk over. The judges are almost certain that they will retain their seats since the majority of them lack an opponent in the race. A study carried out in the retention loss found that 3 out of 231 incumbent judges lost their seats in the retention rates. It raises the question whether the election of the Supreme Court justices serves the purpose if the cases of removal from office are low. Non-partisan elections of the judges run in ballot boxes without labels as opposed to the partisan elections where the judge runs with the ticket of the mainstream political parties. The majority of the legal scientists and lay people opine that judicial elections weaken the states court in defending the rule of law and protecting the wider public from special interests.
Champaigne, A. (2011). Judicial Selection from a Political Science Perspective. Arkansas Law Review, 11-18.
Skaggs, A. (2010). Are Campaign contributions compromising the Independence of Judiciary? Texas State Bar, 7-16.