Alablawg

Commentary on Alabama Law and Society

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Location: Birmingham, Alabama

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Judicial Elections

More than one person has reacted to e-mailgate by suggesting we find a new way to select our state judges. (e.g. here, and here). Captain Bama reminds us that the state bar has already proposed a solution. You can find an explanation and link to the actual plan here.

Basically, it sets up two commission - a nominating commission and an evaluation commission. Both consist of lawyers and non-lawyers. The lawyers are from the plaintiff's bar and the defense bar. The nominating commission will pick three candidates for any vacant appellate judgship. The governor then appoints one. Six years later, that judge comes up for a retention election. Two month before the retention vote, the evaluation committee will release its recommendation and its reasoning.

I think this is an excellent plan. In my view, the biggest problem with the federal system is that the appointments are for life. If the judge turns out to be incompetent, or an 'activist' there is nothing you can do. This gives the people the ability to jettison any really bad judges. In that regard, the evaluation committee provides relevant data on which the voters can act, as opposed to the battle of red herrings that is the current system. This will go a long way towards eliminating stuff like the Champ III e-mail. It will return a sense of dignity and fairness to the bench.

It is a good compromise, which I fear is why it has no chance whatsoever.