With a couple of minor exceptions, like a few local judgeships in Switzerland, the United States is the only country where judges are elected. Indeed, to the rest of the world, the idea of judges running for office—begging for money, airing attack ads against their opponents, thinking always about their next election even after they take the bench—is positively insane. And they're right.
We've had elected judgeships for our entire history, but until the last few years, those elections were nothing like races for Congress or governorships. But those days are past—now not only are judges acting like politicians, outside groups (yes, including the Koch brothers) are pouring money into judicial races to produce courts more to their liking. And when you make judicial elections more partisan, you get more partisan judges, like one Judith French, a member of the Ohio Supreme Court who is running to retain her seat:
At a Saturday event at which she introduced Republican Gov. John Kasich, French said, "I am a Republican and you should vote for me. You're going to hear from your elected officials, and I see a lot of them in the crowd.
"Let me tell you something: The Ohio Supreme Court is the backstop for all those other votes you are going to cast.
"Whatever the governor does, whatever your state representative, your state senator does, whatever they do, we are the ones that will decide whether it is constitutional; we decide whether it's lawful. We decide what it means, and we decide how to implement it in a given case.
"So, forget all those other votes if you don't keep the Ohio Supreme Court conservative," French said.
Well, at least she's being forthright, not bothering with "I'll rule according to the Constitution" and "It's not my job to make the laws" and "I just call balls and strikes" and all the other baloney that Republican judges offer up when asked about their judicial philosophy. "I am a Republican and you should vote for me." That pretty much sums it up. What a terrific system.
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