How North Carolina Selects Judges

This was one of the best years for judicial elections for progressives in a long time. Despite the claim of being nonpartisan, Republicans have dominated recent statewide judicial elections. This year Sarah Parker kept her spot as Chief Justice, Patricia Timmons-Goodson kept the seat she was appointed to on the Supreme Court, and Robin Hudson got elevated from the Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court. A good year for Democrats and justice for sure, but it begs the question of whether voting on judges is the best way to go about selecting our justice system.

The fundamental question in any analysis is weight to be placed on an independent judiciary versus being responsible to the citizenry. The federal courts weigh in entirely on the side of independence, but the states typically fall entirely on the side of political judges. North Carolina attempts to temper this by having public funding of elections and not placing party labels next to candidates names on the ballots (which is a farce with both parties distributing lists of "their" judges). But one has to ask the question that if we do not want politics in judicial races, why do not we not just appoint the judges.

An alternate model adopted in many states has the judges appointed, but the judges must run to be retained every so often (a yes/no vote every 4 years or so). But the underlying question remains whether you want the people charged with doling out justice fairly based on the merits of the case in front of them to be worried about the reaction their ruling may creat in the public and whether that will lose them their job.

I ultimately come down in favor of an independent judiciary appointed by our elected officials. After all the other branhes of the government are elected and will answer to the electorate if they appoint radical justices.


I've struggled with this since semester one of law school

And I still have no answer. If you believe that it's possible for people to dole out justice fairly based on the merits of the case in front of them, then it definitely makes sense to have the judges be as independent as possible. If you don't believe that (and I don't), the stakes are a bit lower, so perhaps you'll excuse my indecision.

It's political either way, really. Those 'independent' federal judges are appointed by someone, anyway, and we've seen what an ideologue president with a rubber-stamp congress can do to turn our judiciary into a Federalist Society picnic. Now we have Alito and we're stuck with him. Does the fact that he's well outside the mainstream of American sensibilities count for anything? Nope.

So maybe the voice of the people should count for something. But then again, if it weren't for a federal judiciary outside the sensibilities of the region in which they serve, we might still be in the midst of the "civil rights era."

they should have to pass some sort of

bias test, like have they made decisions that go against their normal leanings because the facts supported it.

CountryCrats - my thoughts, my blog.

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.

Sounds like a good plan to me

I'm sure the judicial candidates would like it as well. It is a bit of a farce to call it non-partisan and then distribute lists at the polls.

The only thing that scares me is that initial four-year term. A lot of damage can be done in four years.

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Maybe the Puppetshow think tank

will come up with the magic answer:


Not so worried

Im much less worried about our system after seeing the thumping that Duke got. So long as these idiots advertise that they will be conservative activists then sane judges who are moderately progressive will be elected.

"Keep the Faith"