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Ask Slashdot: How To Become Informed In Judicial Elections? 153

Posted by timothy
from the today's-the-day dept.
First time accepted submitter yincrash writes "Today I've been looking up information on local elections and have found it virtually impossible to determine information on judicial elections, both with regards to information on the candidate, and what makes a good judge. Is there a good way to find information on these candidates? chooseyourjudges.org seems to agree that this is basically an impossible task. What do slashdotters do in an information vacuum? Just abstain from voting? Write-in something in protest?"
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Ask Slashdot: How To Become Informed In Judicial Elections?

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  • by Phillip Birmingham (2066) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @10:38AM (#41893211) Homepage

    Don't you kind of expect that there's going to be some of that on a US-based site with a largely US-based membership? Don't be like my countrymen who travel abroad and complain that nobody speaks English.

  • by Insightfill (554828) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @10:42AM (#41893269) Homepage

    Certainly not a disinterested source, but the local bar association usually has a list of the judges and recommendations FOR or AGAINST many of them. I just saw the one from the Chicago Bar Association, and most of the votes were "Yes" (retain) with a few exception.

    Since the bar represents the attorneys who deal with the judges on a regular basis, I figure they likely have the most experience with judges. You can usually do a quick Google on their "no" suggestions and find plenty of juicy stories (sleeping, shouting, capricious rulings, etc.)

    Generally: in the absence of information on a topic, leave it blank.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @10:50AM (#41893353)

    If you want to make an informed decision concerning judicial candidates there is regrettably only one thing you can do: dedicate a painful amount of time to seeing how they act in court first hand. Looking at rulings and public records does almost nothing to break down what goes on in the court on a day to day basis or communicate the prejudices and attitude of the judicial candidates. If you want to know who you should vote for you have to see them in action. This isn't really an option for most people, but luckily many communities have a dedicated group of volunteers who regularly attend court for no other purpose than providing information to the public concerning not only the activities of the judge but of the court in general.

    When I first became a court stenographer I noticed that the same few people seemed to be in the gallery every day. I eventually found out that they were volunteers from a local judicial monitoring group that tried to keep the public apprised of what went on in their courts. Over a decade later I happened to recognize one of the ladies at my churches sewing circle. I found out that they, (mostly retirees with some connection to the legal system; wives and parents of law enforcement or even former DA's and attorneys) try to have someone at every public hearing, but that for the most part people don't seem to care what goes on in their courts. She told me that while it's hard to find someone to attend it's even harder to get the public interested in what is going on.

    Look at the local newspaper, many publish information that will help you find such a group. You might find an advertisement seeking "court watchers" as they call themselves or even a quarterly report they pay to publish. Contact anyone you know who has an affiliation with the local court system and they will likely be able to tell you directly, or point you to someone who can, if their is such a group in your area. Too often people only think of their courts when they're in them, I for one am glad your interested.

  • by TWX (665546) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @10:51AM (#41893359)
    Consider the following:

    Who nominated them- If you don't like who nominated them, that should influence retention. That should be part of public record.

    If they've had any particularly controversial rulings or decisions- letting someone out on bail over strong objections, and that someone doing something bad while bailed, or seemingly denying visitation or joint custody in family law for no good reason, that sort of thing. If you know any lawyers, sometimes they'll have something to chip in too.

    Who would appoint judges to fill the vacancy they leave- the elected official, likely the governor, will appoint to fill vacancies. If you do not like the politics of that governor or the expected successor governor, you might want to leave the devil-you-know in office, rather than the devil you don't know, especially depending on the politics of the governor that originally appointed the judge.


    Unfortunately, you pretty much need an absentee or mail-in ballot to be able to do this. I spent about three hours going through all of the ballot initiatives, school district bonds, city bonds, judges, and other contests to determine how to vote, doing research about who supported various measures, who opposed, and what they'd said about them. I had to use my computer to do the research. Voting in-person on election day would have been impossible with this number of choices.

    I strongly encourage everyone to get on the absentee-ballot list. It makes life a lot easier.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @11:01AM (#41893505)

    Oregon has a fun law passed during WW-I when most voters(men only) were unavailable requiring all lawyers running for office to be members of the state bar association. The state bar association by its rules will disbar anyone running against a sitting judge in Oregonthem disqualifying. That is why unless there is a vacated seat you never get more than one choice in Oregon. In Soviet Oregon Judges vote for who you can vote for.

  • by DL117 (2138600) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @11:01AM (#41893511) Homepage

    Um, no. Unless you're question is privileged(asking for confidential information about their clients "Did Joe Smith tell you if he robbed the bank?"), they aren't prohibited from answering it. Also, there is no "the Bar", each state has it's own bar association, and it does not necessarily certify lawyers. In some states this is done by the supreme court.

    So, not true.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @11:30AM (#41893909)

    Don't you kind of expect that there's going to be some of that on a US-based site with a largely US-based membership?

    Alexa.com puts Slashdot audience as 27.6% from USA, closely followed by India at 25.8%. Then are Canada and UK at about 5% each and the last third consists of long tail of countries (Germany, France, Pakistan, Australia...) with less than 3% each. So while USA, making up one fourth of the audience, is the largest single group, the "largerly US-based membership" seems a bit misleading. Are those statistics accurate? I don't know but they're the best ones available to us as /. hasn't commented on this at all, aside from the decade old faq entry.

    That all said, I (being from Europe) don't mind US-centric stories: My reasons for reading Slashdot are, to some extent, similar to my reasons for watching the daily show. It offers nice glimpses to the society on that side of the ocean.

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