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

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? 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 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 ewanm89 ( 1052822 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @10:21AM (#41893025) Homepage

    Well, in the UK we have police commissioner elections with similar problems at the moment.

  • 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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @10:37AM (#41893193)

    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 Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @10:49AM (#41893341)

    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 the person about what a judge should do in certain situations.

    I guess I could observe quite accurately that voting without knowledge of what you are doing is about the equivalent to taking a machine gun and shooting it wildly about. Voters really need to take seriously and spend time on making sure that they actually learn and vote informed. Even then I must express my discontent with a system that by way of how it raises money makes even the best men and women come about like a bull with a ring in its nose. This last fact is because we allow money to come in without it being directly traced to who sent it in.

    What we need in all elections is the following rules:
    It should be illegal with high penalties for violation to give material assistance to any campaign for which you are not a qualified elector. Bluntly if you don't have the right to vote proved up and certified stay out!
    It should should be highly illegal for a political person to receive money from violators of the first rule.
    It should be required that all contrabutions must be publically reported within 24 hours of receipt.
    It should be required that No Non Voting Entities ever be allowed contribute to elections.
    Citizenship having been bought in the USA with massive expenditures of Blood and Treasure, it should be considered the highest duty and of greatest value.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @10:59AM (#41893489)

    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 ballots is because it rarely tells you anything worthwhile. Judges often have to make rulings which are incredibly complex- you can truthfully say "Judge X ruled this way on 12 cases involving abortion" and make it look like the judge is on a bandwagon for one side or the other... in reality he's a fair judge but it'll take six pages to explain why he had to rule how he did. In short, there isn't enough space on the ballot to adequately explain the "why", but there's plenty of space to smear someone without actually lying.

  • 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?

  • 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?)

  • 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.

Nondeterminism means never having to say you are wrong.