Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Should Retention Elections Be Abolished for County Judges?

County judges are elected to serve 10-year terms. If they desire to remain in office at the end of their term, they seek retention. Voters vote Yes or No. In my lifetime, I've only seen one judge - Justice Russell Nigro in 2005 - rejected in a retention election. 

The argument for retention, as opposed to re-election, is that judges could be taken to task for unpopular but legally correct decisions. A 10-year term, however, provides lots of insulation. Another argument is that a nonpartisan retention election takes the judge out of politics. But judges are the most political animals I know. 

Since 2012, the County Comm'rs Ass'n of Pa has maintained that county judges should stand for re-election, instead of retention, at the end of their 10-year terms. While this would require a change to the Pa. Constitution, I am sure it would garner wide support, especially if the elections are nonpartisan. A judge should be accountable to the voter. 

Let me add as an aside that I oppose any attempt at so-called "merit selection" of judges. That just takes the politics away from the people and into the hands of a bunch of unelected bluebloods.

What's your take?  

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Let them campaign and explain their positions and reasoning on controversial judgements

Anonymous said...

If someone stands for election, the term of office should not be ten years. The current system is a lifetime election. Retention is not an election. Elections mean that you are subject to challenge from another candidate.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more with this.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Mo judge should ever be required or even permitted to explain controversial (or any) decision. But ten years is a long time.

Anonymous said...

simple answer, NO

Bernie O'Hare said...

OK, then why must MDJs stand for re-election every six years? They are judicial officers, too.

Anonymous said...

It's an Absurd idea that any elected official (Particularly a Judge) should be able to win one election and never have to answer to the public again.

Unknown said...

This is an issue that doesn't have an easy solution. I grew up on a state in which judges were appointed, so I have experienced both systems and both are far from perfect. An appointment system results in judges being chosen by the state bar elites, which rewards political insiders. An election system results in them being elected by the very small minority of the eligible voters who are paying attention, as well as some voters who check the box on their ballot without any meaningful information about who they are voting for.

On balance, I like the election system because it makes the judges accountable to the electorate on some level.

With regard to retention, I don't like the idea of sitting judges campaigning, I prefer retention.

Anonymous said...

Simple answer is YES. Retention elections are a farce. No normal voter knows anything about the judges up for retention. Ten years is plenty of time to serve, qualify for a pension, and yet still be held accountable. In Wisconsin the Supreme Court Justices run every 10 years and lower courts every six just like our MDJ's. It's a far superior idea than the plan floating around Harrisburg to gerrymander the state courts.

Colin said...

Sometimes, and only sometimes, the blue bloods do know better. Example, a judicial race where several incredibly qualified candidates from both parties were up for 3 seats. the lead vote getter was an attorney that had barely been practicing law, and got less than 30 "highly recommended" votes from the local bar association, the top candidates received 104, 193, 95, 150, 148. the one with less than 30 was the highest vote getter in the fall general election. oh, AND that candidate also got 165 "not reccomended votes" the next closest had 121 and wasn't on the ballot for the general election. The most highly recommended candidates for judge, only 2 of which were seated, had less than 30 "not recommended" votes. Something to take into consideration when mob rule wins.

Anonymous said...

I think electing judges in ODD years is odd when it is already hard enough to get people to pay attention to judicial races.

Anonymous said...

Human nature is to be agreeable and say yes whenever possible. In advertising and politics, an effective campaign starts with getting your value proposition framed to be achieved via a "Yes" response. Retentions succeed 99% of the time because people really like to say yes. I hate most things and people and love to say no. But I know I'm the exception that proves the rule. Elections make candidates answer to the electorate. Ten years is a long term. Elections are a perfectly reasonable idea. It's how judges got to be judges in the first place.

Unknown said...

Do you write this because you think this way, or do you want to be trolled?

Anonymous said...

Maybe a hybrid approach should be implemented where the bar association puts forth 3 candidates that have met some minimum set of requirements, who are then eligible for election. Limit service to 20 years.