Elections Called a ‘Gosh-Awful’ Route to Fair Courts
A plainspoken and blunt editorial in The Birmingham News deplores the “already outrageous” million-dollar-plus spending in this year’s Alabama Supreme Court campaigns and urges that elections be scrapped in favor of merit selection.
The merit appeal comes from a major newspaper in the state that led the nation in the past decade for big spending on Supreme Court elections. A news article in the same newspaper, relying on Justice at Stake data, pointed out Alabama’s distinction earlier in the week.
Here is the heart of the editorial board’s reasoning, condemning a “gosh-awful” way to pick judges that rides on candidates with their “hands out” for cash:
“Even if this year’s election cycle turns out to be low-cost based on our track record, it’s still not good that those with an interest in the courts’ business are putting up large sums of cash to elect judges. The high cost of these campaigns is one of the best reasons for Alabama to stop electing judges altogether.
“We prefer a system in which judges are appointed through a process that favors merit. Fairly appointed judges could still be accountable to citizens through retention elections in which voters decide who to keep on the bench and who to send packing.
“As it stands, our big-money system of picking judges rides on candidates with their hands out and ‘investors’ looking for a good return. It is a gosh-awful way to pick the people who are supposed to be impartial arbiters of justice.”
You can learn more about merit selection from Justice at Stake’s issues page on the topic.