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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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  • Complain to the Bar (Score:5, Informative)

    by roccomaglio (520780) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @10:16AM (#41892951)
    The Bar does not allow judge candidates to answer many of the questions you would like answered. This professional organization is choosing to require the judge candidates to withhold this information. If the candidates do not follow the rules set by the bar they could loose their law license and be ineligible to be a judge. Your only option is to complain to the Bar in hopes that they will be influenced by your complaint.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I tend to watch judgements in general and not specifically. I use my vote to send a message (which may or may not be fair or even heard) to judges as a community. In a year where things are going reasonably, all existing judges get on the ballot are voted back in. In a year where judgements seem bizarre, lacking common sense, or otherwise bad then all judges on the ballot are voted out. If it is a seat that was not previously occupied by one of the candidates (new, retirement, death), then I look at the cre

      • by donutz (195717) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @11:14AM (#41893697) Homepage Journal

        Sometimes that is a coin toss when comparing highly educated with highly experienced or two similar candidates.

        In cases like this, or where there is plainly not enough information, leave that one blank -- don't vote for either unknown. Unless your ballot stupidly requires you not to leave any races blank (are there such ballots?)

        • by HiThere (15173)

          Leaving a blank invites someone to later fill in THEIR choice. Vote for yourself as a write-in candidate. (Except in such locations as voting for a non-registered candidate would invalidate the ballot. In those cases vote for a random candidate, so at least the machine will have a higher noise level to overcome. If the ballots are honestly counted.)

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The comment above indicates that the BAR should have no control over candidates PERIOD. However; the basic question here is one of involvement of the electorate. I have been involved in elections for a long time including judicial ones. I too find them difficult to get real info on. The only way I know to get the information is to actually meet the judge and ask challenging questions on various issues to draw them out about how they see the process. This often also involved provocative assertations to

      • by DL117 (2138600)

        Preventing who can't vote(felons, non-citizens, young people under 18) from assisting campaigns is not only a terrible idea, but blatantly unconstitutional. It would be struck down at the drop of a hat.

        • by ewanm89 (1052822)

          "material assistance" aka, money, paper, lending printers or video cameras... Not that they can't walk around and put flyers through doors.

    • Is the Bar hoping that this will keep people from voting in the elections and incumbents will always win, or does the Bar just really like rolling the dice?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The Bar does not allow judge candidates to answer many of the questions you would like answered.

      Uh, he never stated any specific (or general) questions. So I'm assuming you're referring instead to the article he references.

      "Approximately 80% of the electorate cannot even identify any candidates for judicial office. [1] Thus, the vast majority of these voters base their decision on information from the ballot itself."

      So the problem seems to be that most of the population doesn't give a shit about being informed, and they just read the ballot info and check a box.

      Your only option is to complain to the Bar in hopes that they will be influenced by your complaint.

      Well no, that's not a fucking solution at all. The solution is not to compile a few more sentences on the ballot, it's to get people to pay attention in the first place. Part of the reason most of "that information" isn't allowed on the

    • 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.

    • I did complain to the bar. Loudly. They gave me a funny look and went back to their beers.

      They cut me off shortly thereafter.
  • I am voting for Bender in my judicial elections. He is equally harsh on all humans. Although I do not know if he can be on the DC Board of Elections [slashgear.com] and be a judge.

    • by jittles (1613415)
      I abstain from voting for anyone or anything I do believe I have a basic understanding of. And if the only person running for a position is the incumbent, then I absolutely refuse to vote. I'd love to have the incumbent look at the paper the next day, see his 50 votes and think "Hmm maybe these people don't really like me at all?" Maybe it will encourage someone to run against them in the next election? It never happens though, people seem to default to filling out the only choice if there is only one ch
      • by geekoid (135745)

        Your type of thinking is a huge problem. One of the worst in an election cycle. The BLIND BELIEF in what you vote without thinking. It just pisses me off.
        Frankly, I can research judges on the internet, becasue any major issue will be in the local news. I can also see if they have a website.
        You could also get more information on rulings they have had in mos of their case.

        Not that it matter much in most cases becasue there ruling are pretty routine, day to day.
        When it isn't a routine situation, then I look c

        • Re:Personally (Score:5, Insightful)

          by jittles (1613415) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @12:39PM (#41894801)
          Ok dude my ballot was 4 pages long. Not even 8.5x11 pages long. None of the judges had opposition. Most of the local people did not either. If I don't have the time or the energy to run for one of those positions, what am I supposed to do? Force someone to run at gun point? And I didn't say that I vote blindly. I said I abstain from voting when I do not understand an issue. I would think you could be okay with that. At least I am not going down the ballot marking every single D or R on the ballot. But if you're not okay with it, I don't care. It's my right to vote, and I will do so how I see fit. At least I try to tackle the important issues and ignore the ones that I don't have the time to address.
  • by bitslinger_42 (598584) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @10:16AM (#41892959)

    If you're in a state where the vote isn't "choose between Person X and Person Y to be a judge", chances are the vote is to retain an existing judge for another term. My philosophy has been that, unless I become aware of gross misconduct (i.e. bribery, criminal prosecution, failure to recuse self when obviously interested in the case, etc.), I vote to retain

    The rationale is that the judiciary is supposed to be apolitical. If they have to go through campaigning, the way other candidates do, they become subject to campaign contributions and all the evils those entail. Leave them where they are unless they've done something obviously wrong.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      And yet in some states, their party affiliation is listed under their name on the ballot.

    • by mwvdlee (775178)

      unless I become aware of gross misconduct (...), I vote to retain

      In which case the judge should have already been disbarred and you shouldn't be able to vote for retaining at all.

      Why aren't judges selected by the bar associations based on experience and past performance (decissions overturned in a higher court, procedural mistakes, etc.)?

      • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @11:02AM (#41893527)

        Why aren't judges selected by the bar associations based on the political interests of the bar association?

        That is what you are really asking and with that correction to your question, I think it answers itself. The question I want to ask you is, what makes you think the bar association is an unbiased, politically disinterested organization?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      My take on this is that being a judge should be a temporary appointment for a lawyer - someone with a law practice should be able to spend a year or two being a judge and then return to their law practice. Having a judicial career often gives someone way too much power in terms of both being able to decide people's fates as well as having to do reciprocal favors for others.

      So the philosophy is to vote to not retain all judges, period. I don't care what their record is, it should be a temporary appointment

    • 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

        I always receive a sample ballot in the mail, it also includes candidate statements (short paragraph, including judges who are on the ballot), maybe they don't do that where you live. Back when I was in school (different state) they didn't mail them to me, but you could pick them up at city hall or the public library.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Unfortunately, you pretty much need an absentee or mail-in ballot to be able to do this.

        The other solution is for the state to mail out sample ballots (like Maryland did when I lived there). Then you can do the research before you vote, and take with you whatever materials you want when you go vote. Unfortunately some states don't even trivially have sample ballots available online.

    • District level judges should be apolitical. However, appellete judges are inherently political, despite what they may like to pretend. They need a philosophy on the limits of government and areas that aren't explicitly spelled out in law. It would be impossible to spell out the rights of people. It's why the 9th amendment to the Constitution exists - a reminder that the Bill of Rights is incomplete.

      But even at the trial level, Judges have a lot of discretion on sentencing. Some might be very harsh in s

    • I'm the opposite - unless I aware of some really good judgements I vote against the incumbent.

      My thinking is that I live in Chicago and we have very, very, very low judicial turnover; if a sitting judge does manage to lose re-election, that means they must be more than usually corrupt.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Today we hear news stories of people coming to the polls and spending an hour reading constitutional amendments, trying to figure out how they're going to vote on them. In other words, they are deciding the fate of their state's constitution without any forethought.

    This is commonplace, because in this so-called representative democracy [metagovernment.org], we are disenfranchised all of the time except for one moment every few years.

    How much longer until more people start working on the system [metagovernment.org] that will enable us all to always

    • by u38cg (607297)
      Presumably once we finally forget what a mess Athenian democracy was.
  • by Revotron (1115029) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @10:22AM (#41893033)
    You're not in an information vacuum - the information is there, it's just buried.

    I can't speak for every state, but here in Missouri, the Missouri Bar association runs a website which publishes recommendations from a Bar association committee based on individual performance evaluations provided by lawyers, and also reports on the technical quality of opinions written by the judge in question. They summarize their findings very nicely, provide a "Retain/Dismiss" recommendation, and cite sources for all of their claims and opinions.

    I'd recommend browsing your state's bar association website to see if they offer a similar service.
    • by Revotron (1115029) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @10:27AM (#41893079)
      For those wondering, the website in question is http://www.showmecourts.org/ [showmecourts.org]
    • That information has proven quite helpful in my home states (CO and NE).

      Usually I'll vote against a judge if more than about 15% of attorneys recommend "Do Not Retain" (or 10%, if the the judge gets poor marks for impartiality). For borderline cases, first I'll look for mentions of the judge in news stories. If I'm still undecided, I'll vote against retention. Why? The vast majority of people vote to retain all of the judges, so even really bad judges stay in office. By voting against retention, I wil

    • Dig down several levels on the bar association web site. They may have posted the questionnaires they ask candidates to fill out. Those won't tell you how good the candidates are but will give you an idea how they think and what's important to them.

      Then if you have any business relationship with a lawyer, ask for gossip. They won't antagonize judges by going to the press, but they do know who's competent and who isn't.

      Then there's votingforjudges.org.

    • by Quirkz (1206400)
      The Colorado voting guide had a small summary for the judges, but in every single instance the suggestion was a unanimous 10-0 (or 8-0 with two unavailable) to retain. It made me strongly suspicious I wasn't getting impartial advice, though I guess it's possible all of our judges are just fantastic.
  • by Latent Heat (558884) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @10:23AM (#41893039)
    Cook County, Illinois, has long had a reputation for uncontested elections "down ballot", "machine" politics, and all the rest. Oh yes, and elected judges. If political officials appoint the judges, at least you know what you are getting -- vote for Party Mayor A, get judges appointed along with Mayor A's platform, and so on.

    Attending Northwestern University in Evanston, I came across a "voters guide" to the judges stuck to a lamp post. I wish I had copied it down or photographed it, it was a complete classic exercise in an unabridged and uncensored rundown of who these people are. One remark sticks in my mind nearly 40 years later, that a Cook County judge had the nickname "Fathead McGillicuddy." The colorful nature of the remarks only got better from there.

    Would that we could get the rumors and the slanders and the inuendo and the things known to the poor defense attorneys (and defendants). One can always run such "through a filter" to sort out genuine dirt from campaign hyberbole, much as we process the negative ads the major office seekers run against each other. But at least it would be something to go on.

    • For Cook County voters, the Chicago Tribune has published [chicagotribune.com] a guide to the judicial races, including recommending several circuit court judges be thrown out. One such judge was arrested in her own courtroom for battery.

  • Vote them all out (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by Hatta (162192)

    Any judge in office today is enforcing bad law. This means they are bad people. Throw them all out.

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      How do you know that judges aren't doing useful things like throwing out bad evidence and bad cases? How do you know that the incumbent isn't leading the charge against bad laws?

      The "throw them all out" idea is incorrect because it fails to reward good public officials, thus providing no incentive for a public official to do the job well.

      • by Hatta (162192)

        A judges job is to enforce the law. If he's not enforcing the law as written, he's a bad judge. If he's enforcing bad law as written, he's a bad person.

        • by geekoid (135745)

          "If he's not enforcing the law as written

          see, here is the problem you need to understand:
          You are ignorant and possible stupid. You have no clue what they do, what it required of them.
          You have no idea why they are called 'Judges'.
          The fact that you think all laws are bad just tells us you are stupid, and emotionally tied to staying stupid.

          • by Hatta (162192)

            Who said all laws were bad? Your lack of reading comprehension tells us that you are stupid.

        • But by your own argument, their opponent is someone who desires to enforce bad laws, therefore you cannot vote for them either. Are you suggesting simply abstaining?

  • by characterZer0 (138196) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @10:28AM (#41893083)

    I do not vote for judges who claim to be "tough on drugs/drug offenders" or judges who advertise their high conviction rate. (Which is pretty much all of them.) I want correct interpretation of the law and presumption of innocence, not jails full of non-violent offenders. The last one I remember voting for advertised that she (as a private lawyer) had success getting bad laws knocked down and going after corrupt politicians. She lost.

  • They can work to change the judicial selection process. The purpose of the courts is essentially anti-democratic: cases are supposed to be decided based on the law, not on which outcome will be most popular with the general public. It's a bad idea then to have judges constantly having to run for elections as this creates an incentive to bias their rulings against unpopular parties and for popular ones.

  • I'm, a Libertarian, so I vote that party where possible. If there's no Libertarian candidate in a race, I vote republican, since Republicans are (very narrowly) more Libertarian than Democrats. But, when it comes to judges, if there's no Libertarian, I pick the Democrat, since on the whole, Democrats will be more reasonable in drug cases than republicans. For what it's worth....
    • by medv4380 (1604309)
      You do know that most states don't do partisan elections for judges so their is no Republican, Libertarian, or Democrat Judge to vote for. Just an Independent or two. Most are merit selection or non-partisan selection. Your "method" doesn't work for most state judicial elections.
    • by omnichad (1198475)

      Please don't just vote by party name. Do a little research into the individual.

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @10:30AM (#41893115) Homepage

    Things to check:
    - Your local bar associations often provide ratings of who they think is good.
    - Your local papers will probably have endorsements and explain why.
    - Any organizations you support may have voting guides.
    - Of course, if you've had any dealings with the court system in question, you can use your own experience to decide on incumbents at least. For example, I could intelligently vote on 1 of the judges running this year because I'd been in her courtroom as a juror.

    • by vlm (69642)

      Your local papers will probably have endorsements and explain why.

      Finally a /. post with the correct answer. If the police chief endorses a judge in a newspaper story I won't vote for that judge, don't want a cooperative relationship between judicial and executive. They're supposed to be checks and balances on each other, not gang up together against the population (us).

      Also loudmouthed local political party hacks can't keep their mouths shut about who they like. Formal endorsements, informal suggestions, sample ballots. So vote based on that if you're a party member,

  • Smart Voter (Score:3, Informative)

    by Trevin (570491) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @10:32AM (#41893131) Homepage
    I go to http://www.smartvoter.org/ [smartvoter.org] for almost all of my candidate research. You can't see a judge's prior rulings from there, but at least some of them post their priorities. If a candidate doesn't submit a profile to their database, I usually ignore them come election day.
  • by XxtraLarGe (551297) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @10:32AM (#41893133) Journal
    I don't like anybody holding power for too long, and typically when a judge gets elected it's a position for life. Most attorneys are reluctant to run against a sitting judge, so many times they don't even have an opponent. So when they do have an opponent, I usually vote against the one with "Judge" in front of their name.
    • There are too many exceptions to make it your only criterion, but in my area when an attorney runs against an incumbent, it's often because the incumbent is vulnerable, which is often because s/he is bad.

      • There are too many exceptions to make it your only criterion

        Yeah, that's why I said "usually." :-P

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Can't go too wrong using that approach.

  • I'm just watching ads. You think the bar is going to tell you Judge Johnson uses tax dollars to fund parties for baby rapists he odered early released?

  • by rossdee (243626) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @10:40AM (#41893235)

    In the ballot I just voted on, all or nearly all of them were running unopposed.
    But there was a space fore a write in

    This is the first US election I have voted in - I only became a citizen in 2009

    And in the last week we have had phone calls asking us to vote for "One Man One Woman"
    which was a good song, but I don't think it was Abba's best

  • 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.

  • Ask a lawyer (Score:3, Informative)

    by soapee01 (698313) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @10:44AM (#41893291)
    I asked my friend who's a general practice lawyer. He does defense work, family law etc. They tend to know all of the people running personally and are most interested in a fair and impartial judge regardless of party. Other than that I couldn't find any information online or in newspapers. The media doesn't seem to care about district/municipal judges which is incorrigible since they influence the general public more directly than any other elected official.
    • by DL117 (2138600)

      This. Lawyers are the ones who interact with judges, and who understand these issues, Ask a lawyer or look on a bar associations website.

  • by bjdevil66 (583941) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @10:44AM (#41893297)

    I came across this site while doing research as well.

    From the site [azjudges.info]:

    The Arizona Commission on Judicial Performance Review sets performance standards for the judges appointed through the merit selection process, decides whether or not a judge meets those standards, and reports its findings to you, the voters when a judge is up for retention.

    The Commission collects information on how judges perform by distributing written surveys and holding public hearings for people who have first-hand knowledge of the job performance of judges appearing on the 2012 general election ballot. More than 57,000 surveys on Arizona judges were distributed in 2011. The Commission also accepts written comments at any time about the performance of judges.

    The survey responses are compiled by an independent data center and the results are given to the Commission. Its members review all the information on each judge and vote whether the judge MEETS or DOES NOT MEET judicial performance standards. When the Commission votes, the judges' names are encoded so that members do not know which judge they are voting on until all the votes are counted.

    It came in pretty handy. Perhaps other states have similar web sites?

  • Where I am our Judicial voting is based on whether to retain the Judge or not. It makes it simpler. If I see a political ad about a judge or know any information about the judge then I vote to fire them. If I know next to nothing about them then they must be doing their job right. We've only had one time in 30 years where we actually had two candidates on the ballet at the same time and that was because the predecessor purposefully timed his retirement to coincide with the election.
  • Judges are usually [amoral] elite attorneys whose decisions get worse with time. In general, justice has a better chance of being served by voting against incumbants.
    • Indiana has these "retention" ballot measures.

      I don't do research. I vote "no" as a matter of course. Of course it does no good, but if people would actually vote no more often I think the churn would do the court system some good.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    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, bu

  • Many jurisdictions have a legal newsletter or website for attorneys. They often provide excellent coverage of judicial races.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    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 SirGarlon (845873) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @11:08AM (#41893607)

    A friend of mine is a small-town judge. He's elected, but it's a part-time job (10 hours per week I think). He's judge in the town where he lives and works as an attorney in a neighboring town.

    In his small town, my friend got elected because the town councilmen asked him to run. They'd worked with him in his day job (where he was representing a company trying to get permits in the town and whatnot) and thought he was a good guy. This is how things get done on a local level: the local officials say "we need a new judge" (or registrar of deeds or whatnot) and pick someone they think is level-headed and responsible.

    What I'm trying to say is that unless you are plugged into local politics, it probably does not make much difference to you whether your new judge is someone the Republicans think is a good guy, or someone the Democrats think is a good guy. You'll get a good guy either way -- unless of course all the members of one party are a bunch of jerks, in which case you don't trust their judgment and want the other guy.

    At the local level, some of these positions are just a popularity contest. I usually abstain because I have never lived in one place long enough to know who's who.

    • by dkleinsc (563838) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @11:26AM (#41893871) Homepage

      Not as much as, say, a legislator or mayor, but judges definitely are part of the political process. For example, right now, judges in the Bronx are heavily involved in the stop-and-frisk policy debate, mostly because they've been throwing out bogus "trespassing" charges caused by the police randomly harassing people in the hallways of public housing projects.

      Good judges see their role as the umpire calling balls and strikes, but like umpires the size of the strike zone varies a bit: Some are more friendly to prosecutors / plaintiffs, some more friendly to defendants. Some are more concerned about taking the time to ensure fairness, some are more concerned with not wasting the court's valuable time with trivialities. Some will be faced with completely unprecedented sets of facts where there isn't good guidance from the legislature or legal precedent, and under those circumstances only have their own opinions and sense of fairness to draw on. Some will be more strict about when they should recuse themselves than others.

  • For myself, I have found that the incumbent judges are marked on my ballot as incumbents. I have yet to stand in a court, in front of a judge I thought was worth his weight in attitude. So, I vote for new judges, at all levels. When the system changes, so will my vote.
  • State Supreme Court (Score:4, Informative)

    by zerosomething (1353609) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @11:20AM (#41893761) Homepage
    At least for your states Supreme Court you can lookup their written decisions. Sometimes Wikipedia has a listing of individual judges and their decisions for your state. Pick an issue you know when to the state court and lookup the decision. Each state should have these decisions online in some form. Try searching for keywords like Abortion, Marijuana, Alcohol (Wine shipments to your state and microbrew issues). In Indiana we are trying to vote out "Steven H. David" for his decision stating "We hold that there is no right to reasonably resist unlawful entry by police officers." http://www.in.gov/judiciary/opinions/pdf/05121101shd.pdf [in.gov]
    • Which is objectionable because it's contrary to hundreds of years of law. Simply disagreeing with it would have been a bad reason to throw him out.

      • Potentate and dictators are much more common to history than democratically elected representative governments. John Locke and many other simply disagreed with that so it must be a bad idea? I think you mean disagreeing with good reason is fine but simple disagreement isn't.
  • The best way is to look at their rulings and try to understand their rationale. I find that especially for Appellate court races, it helps to examine prior cases, especially ones that are important to you. Do they stray from prior precedent? Do they seem to wildly interpret or misconstrue the intent of a statute that is activist in nature, i.e. an "ends justify the means" philosophy or are they strict "rule of law" justices that are completely impartial? If they have no prior experience as a judge, look

  • Never vote for a (criminal law) judge that hasn't worked both prosecution and defense.

  • To familiarize yourself with your local Judicial system you need first hand information on the judges. Get yourself a bunch of citations for minor infractions and contest them all. Some places assign judges randomly so you have a chance of appearing before most of them. Keep a blog on your experiences. The judges that restrict your rights, don't let you have a jury trial or are overly biased towards the prosecution should be voted out.
  • Please don't write-in a candidate unless you mean it - it can cause extra work for the already-stressed poll workers. For the optical scan machines that are in use in Michigan, any ballet with a write-in is sorted into a separate bin for manual processing; I'm guessing that many other such machines behave similarly (though I would guess that touchscreens don't require manual intervention). Any such "protest vote" will not go any further than your own feeling of accomplishment, the poll worker's annoyance, a

    • by nbauman (624611)

      Please don't write-in a candidate unless you mean it - it can cause extra work for the already-stressed poll workers.

      Don't those poll workers get paid by the hour?

    • Recounts are bad enough without having to read write in jokes. Especially when the other side has been told to purposely make life miserable and stall - they'll dispute the thing just to create more work at the next phase.

    • Please don't write-in a candidate unless you mean it - ... Any such "protest vote" will not go any further than your own feeling of accomplishment...

      Second that!. Many states don't allow write-in unless they are officially recognized. So votes for Micky Mouse often are not even counted. Voting for a listed 3rd party is a much better alternative even if you don't agree with them.

    • by toddestan (632714)

      I always assumed that the number of write-in votes are counted, but unless the number is high enough to potentially beat the candidates on the ballot they aren't looked at otherwise. Is that not the case?

  • Here's a good tip a friend of mine gave me.

    In my county, usually their prior job titles are listed.

    If you're "tough on crime" vote for the candidate who used to be a Prosecutor or District Attorney.

    If you're for "fair trials" vote for the candidate who used to be a public defender.

    Another way would be to say "tough on innocent victims", instead of "tough on crime". Or "weak on crime" instead of "fair trials", depending on which way you swing. ;) Maybe someone else can come up with labels that aren't as emot

  • by GodInHell (258915) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @01:36PM (#41895705) Homepage
    As a litigator, I have trouble advising people on how to vote on any given judge. There are some judges I would like to see removed from the bench - simply because they're bad (don't read motions, show up late, don't listen to argument, make their decision when they receive the Complaint, ignore case law when it suits them, are consistently head-shakingly wrong, etc) - others I would like to see removed because their courtroom demeanor or procedure slow down cases and make litigation much more expensive.

    Now here's the problem -- I can't tell you who these judges are. I won't even say anything about them when I can do so anonymously. Why? Because I know most of them will still be judges next week, and I'll have to appear before them. (remember, these are the /bad/ judges). The best I can do is pass around the local bar association's voter guide. Because the folks that write that guide are all attorneys the packet is mostly a bland recitation that most judges are qualified, occasionally with a very soft rebuke "needs to work on being more efficient and prepared" with the worst of the worst bad actors singled out at the ends as "not qualified."

    Saddly, I think the informed voters get lost in the shuffle of folks that just show up and hit yes on every judge's retention ballot. /sigh
  • It's not easy, but it can be done. The work of courts is complex. While it is inevitable that politics will on some level guide a court's composition, the task of a judge differs from that of a legislator or executive. It's rarely the kind of sexy work that makes big headlines, and judges are really supposed to avoid the grandstanding, campaigning, and sloganeering we're used to for legislative and executive elections.

    So start searching for the work of your local trial, regional appellate, and state suprem
  • I vote to retain the judges with the names that I find amusing. I make super informed choices.
  • I have a lawyer friend and since the judges here are mostly running for reelection or are attornies running to be a judge, he usually knows which one is fair or not. it's a hard thing to see a drug addict get a prison sentence instead of some help.
  • There is votingforjudges.org, which is a great start.

    Wish I could help more for other states!

  • Talk to lawyers who have appeared before your local judges. Or, if they haven't, they likely talk to other lawyers who have. "Bad" judges tend to have a reputation as being "bad" that crosses party lines.
  • It always makes me a little ill to see judges campaigning. Judges are supposed to interpret the law, not set policy. With all the money going into elections it is even more important that judges are impartial. We don't want judges to make decisions based on popularity or political interests that would affect their electability; they need to be non-partisan and insulated from special interests.

    The Founders had it right: maintain the separation of powers so that the judiciary acts as a check on the powers

You can tell how far we have to go, when FORTRAN is the language of supercomputers. -- Steven Feiner

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