Wednesday, May 30, 2007

In praise of our way of picking judges

Virginia remains only one of two states where the legislature elects judges. Critics complain, sometimes with justification, about our system. Some argue that it has become a way to dispense political patronage (as if that element hadn’t always been part of the scheme). Bar groups, whose members may know candidates best, seemingly have been marginalized in the selection process.

It could be a lot worse.

Ruth Marcus has a column in this morning's Washington Post that indicates that nasty attack ads have been on the uptick in states that hold popular elections for judges. A candidate for the Kentucky Supreme Court was savaged with an ad Marcus calls “Willie Horton Goes to Court.”

And the races are getting costly. Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb of the Alabama Supreme Court spent just $5,000 in her first race in 1982, running for a lower-level judgeship. But for seeking a seat on the high court this past year, Cobb’s tab was a cool $2.6 million.

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