Wednesday, June 02, 2010

And this is why you don't directly elect judges

Look, there's plenty of problems with appointing judges, don't get me wrong. But whatever problems they are, they pale in comparison to this. What an embarassment. From AlterNet (http://blogs.alternet.org/speakeasy/2010/06/01/conservative-attorneys-on-mission-from-god-to-impose-religious-agenda-on-courts/)

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New reports out of Afghanistan point to a province where Taliban followers hope to become judges, so they can apply their religious beliefs to court rulings, rather than the secular tenets of the law.

Wait, did I say the Taliban in Afghanistan? I meant Christian conservatives in California.

A group of conservative attorneys say they are on a mission from God to unseat four California judges in a rare challenge that is turning a traditionally snooze-button election into what both sides call a battle for the integrity of U.S. courts.

Vowing to be God’s ambassadors on the bench, the four San Diego Superior Court candidates are backed by pastors, gun enthusiasts, and opponents of abortion and same-sex marriages.

“We believe our country is under assault and needs Christian values,” said Craig Candelore, a family law attorney who is one of the group’s candidates. “Unfortunately, God has called upon us to do this only with the judiciary.”

I suppose the obvious observation here is that the direct election of judges — the law in 33 states — may not be the best idea.

But there’s far more to this particular problem, called the “Better Courts Now” initiative. Here we have a series of far-right attorneys who are running on a fairly specific platform — they promise to be biased, partial jurists, basing their decisions on a religious agenda. The difference between these kinds of judges and those found in Iran and Saudi Arabia is … well, there really isn’t a difference.

In other words, these judicial candidates want to turn their courtrooms into a position consistent with a theocracy. Indeed, the initiative was launched by two pastors.

“Any organization that wants judges to subscribe to a certain political party or certain value system or certain way of ruling to me threatens the independence of the judiciary,” San Diego County’s District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis told the AP.”Judges should be evaluated based on their qualifications and their duty to follow the law.”

Except that is apparently old-school thinking, which some elements of the right have no use for.

Why elect a judge who will provide a legitimate forum for a fair trial when you can elect a right-wing religious activist who believes he’s following instructions from above?

And given that voters don’t often turn out for down-ballot races like these, and that the candidates themselves are generally not well known to the public, organizers of this effort believe they have a reasonably good chance at pulling it off — and they may very well be right.

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