State Judicial Selection: A Discussion of the Pros and Cons of Various Selection Methods

The Diane Rehm Show discusses how judicial elections and appointment processes impact fairness in state courts.
Some critics argue elections create political biases which weaken judicial impartiality. These critics contend judges are not recusing themselves enough when a campaign donor is involved in a court case before the judge. They further argue that even if a judge remains impartial, elections create an appearance of impropriety that damages the public's perception of the judiciary. Critics suggest that though States may be unable to fully eliminate politics from the judicial section process, appointment methods see less bias and are better able to mitigate political influences.
Others argue elections provide a way for the people to hold judges accountable and that the key to keeping courts fair and impartial is by educating the public. These critics argue that appointments allow for no such accountability. Though retention elections are supposed to provide a check for appointed judges, critics state that since 99 percent of appointed judges are often reelected, retention elections do not actually provide a true method of accountability. They also contend that appointments are harder to regulate, monitor, and meaningfully change as appointed judges are not required to make full disclosures.