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Question of the day

Wednesday, Sep 11, 2019

* Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

“I think popular election is a very bad way to select judges,” Ginsburg told an audience gathered on the U. of C. campus, who applauded the comment. “And judges campaigning for office, saying ‘if you elect me I’m going to be tough on crime’ — it’s a spectacle. I don’t know any other country in the world where judges are elected. One can understand the origins, the people’s distrust of the British judges, but we’re long past that time. The direction is toward appointment rather than election.”

* The Question: Should judges be appointed in Illinois and by whom? Make sure to explain your answer.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Anon E Moose - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 12:47 pm:

    By the governor with the approval of the Senate. Just like the feds.

  2. - Steve - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 12:50 pm:

    Anon is right.

  3. - PrairieDog - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 12:51 pm:

    The current system of electing judges in Illinois should be retained. The law belongs to the people, it is not the private preserve of the legal profession, and certainly should not be the preserve of the political/administrative class. Appointment, as in the federal judiciary, is all about politics, but politics within the political/administrative class.

  4. - OneMan - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 12:53 pm:

    I’d love to say that the Senate/Governor system would give us better results, but I still think it would be as political if not even more than it is now.

    It would be like the Cook County slating process, writ large across the entire state.

    Unless you do it like Alaska with a commission and the like I think the current system is the best option unfortunately.

  5. - DuPage Saint - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 12:53 pm:

    No. Elect full circuits. Maybe non partisan ballot
    Who would appoint? Politicians? Ed Burke
    It is the money they take in donated by the attorneys that concern me most

  6. - JP Altgeld - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 12:56 pm:

    We already have appointed judges in Cook County, at least. The party slates and those folks get in (with very rare exceptions). This is why our quality of judges is so low.

    I like how Indiana does it - governor appoints, senate confirms (for appellate courts). But I would do it for all courts here. It at least creates a far more transparent process than what currently exists.

  7. - Hard Hat - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 12:58 pm:

    I agree with the Notorious RBG. Let’s just skip the whole charade of an election, and give the robes to the biggest corporate sponsors so they can hand pick who they want. Seems like a more honest exercise.

  8. - Unpopular - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 12:59 pm:

    Appointment by Madigan alone.

  9. - Donnie Elgin - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 1:00 pm:

    I trust the vote of the people over our career politicians. I do think the retention votes are a joke however.

  10. - RNUG - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 1:01 pm:

    No. We don’t want politically connected people with agendas being appointed by whoever is in power at the time.

    The judges should be / continue to be elected. Now that isn’t pretty, but I feel it is better than the alternative of straight appointment.

    I do feel the candidates should somehow be vetted for basic competence / understanding of the law … especially if the fourth estate can’t or won’t do basic background checking.

    An alternative might be to adopt a version of the Federal system where an executive like the Governor or s Board makes the recommendation / appointment, and then a legislative body like the Senate would have to confirm it. That would be more cumbersome, and still wouldn’t eliminate the politics as shown by the Supreme Court appointment process.

    So I still lean to direct election by the voters. But maybe there needs to be a voter recall process also to potentially restrain too activist judges on any side.

  11. - Thomas Paine - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 1:01 pm:

    Appointing judges is a terrible idea. Just look at the appointment process at the federal level.

    We might occasionally get a bad result in Illinois from our system of electing judges.

    But we get a far worse result for our criminal justice system from our system of appointing police chiefs. And probably from the election of prosecutors.

    No system is perfect, every system has weaknesses, but the weaknesses of an elected system are relatively easy for the masses to correct.

  12. - yeah - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 1:03 pm:

    Appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate, BUT the Governor needs to select from a list of candidates provided by the state bar association.

  13. - Bothanspy - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 1:03 pm:

    The reason appointing doesn’t work well either, at least in modern times, is that somehow the law has become partisan. A Right or Left leaning judge should not be able to exist if the laws are clear

  14. - Anonish - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 1:03 pm:

    Politics and agendas always get into the mix whether you appoint or elect. If there was a better accountability process for problematic judges I think more people would feel ok with it all.

  15. - ZZT - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 1:03 pm:

    —. But I would do it for all courts here —

    Not a chance, judges should be local. We don’t need the Chicago machine owning all 3 branches of government.

  16. - anon2 - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 1:06 pm:

    In Cook County, the election and retention process neither prevents incompetents from being elected nor removes them after they have amply demonstrated their unfitness.

  17. - BC - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 1:08 pm:

    I’m good with a Gov appoint/senate approve process. Maybe require bar association approval and a 3/5th senate vote, too.

    At the very least, let’s eliminate the single biggest farce within the electoral process we have now: Cook County’s retention ballot, which usually has 60 to 70 judges on it.

  18. - Chicago Cynic - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 1:12 pm:

    Absolutely. Merit selection is a better way to go. The ridiculous process in Illinois is clearly not the best way to get the highest quality judiciary.

  19. - Not a Superstar - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 1:13 pm:

    For appellate courts, we should have gubernatorial appointments, with names selected by a nonpartisan commission. No system is perfect, but appellate and Supreme Court justices should not be raising funds and running partisan campaigns.

  20. - Levois - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 1:19 pm:

    Hmmm, I like the idea of appointed judges. However, I like the idea of say the state supreme court and appellate judges being appointed by the governor. I don’t have a good answer for what to do with say county circuit judges. How does one appoint judges for the Cook County Circuit Court?

  21. - Norseman - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 1:22 pm:

    I go with appointment by Gov with confirmation by Senate. Judge terms should not exceed eight years, with reappointment allowed. Consideration should also be given to require 40% of judges appointed to be of the minority party.

  22. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 1:23 pm:

    ===I go with appointment by Gov with confirmation by Senate===

    Downstate Republicans are just gonna love that.

  23. - H-W - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 1:27 pm:

    Mixed Martial Arts contest.

  24. - Boone's is Back - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 1:28 pm:

    I used to be for appointment. However, the politicization of the judicial branch, particularly under the Trump administration, has me rethinking that.

    I don’t know the right answer but I see pitfalls with both. At least with elections we can say that the people have a direct say in it.

  25. - R A T - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 1:33 pm:

    Trump’s destruction will most be felt in the judges his administration has selected from the very top on down. Ruth is wrong.

  26. - SWIL_Voter - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 1:43 pm:

    Judges should be appointed by popularly elected executives to non-lifetime terms. Each popularly elected executive should get a set number of selections. Legislatures should have to get 60% or more votes to block the appointments, not to approve them.

  27. - Stark - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 1:45 pm:

    Sure downstate Republicans aren’t gonna like a Gov-Sen appointment process. Perhaps they could, like, be more appealing to the electorate to win more Senate elections to combat this - just as the parties in the Senate at the federal level must do.

  28. - Nanker Phelge - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 1:46 pm:

    I don’t like the election system as I often know nothing about the candidates on the ballot. I know I am ultimately responsible for educating myself, but getting information on judicial candidates is hard. Plus, I don’t think the average person really has any idea what the true role of a judge is.
    But, I don’t trust Governors and Senators to be unbiased and select people who will truly judge and not legislate from the bench (and judges who practice exegesis, not eisegesis when interpreting the law).

  29. - A guy - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 1:51 pm:

    I’d be in favor or appointment. But it should be a qualified body doing the appointing. Maybe a 5 person panel that includes a ISC Justice.

  30. - Chicagonk - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 2:00 pm:

    Maybe a qualification that Illinois Supreme Court justices have to have been a judge at either the state or federal level in order to be appointed.

  31. - DIstant watcher - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 2:02 pm:

    “Appointment” is just an election with a smaller pool of voters and fewer campaign rules.

  32. - Roman - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 2:04 pm:

    == Downstate Republicans are just gonna love that. ==

    Legit point. A few ways to address that: supermajority consent of the senate (which we’d have to put at 2/3rds or higher) or let the highest ranking statewide official not in the Guv’s party fill every third vacancy. If there are no statewide officials from the other party, then let the House leader not from the guy’s party appoint. Don’t ask me what to do if we have an independent governor.

    Never gonna get politics out of this.

  33. - DIstant watcher - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 2:05 pm:

    and, as Justice Ginsburg should know, no guarantee that a vacancy will be filled in a timely manner.

  34. - thoughts matter - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 2:05 pm:

    I usually leave the ballot blank for judges. I don’t know anything about them beyond a commercial or two. University trustees is just as useless of an election.

    Appoint. Use established standards to weed out the unqualified.

  35. - Practical Politics - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 2:07 pm:

    Once upon a time in Illinois, judicial elections were conducted separate and apart from elections for other candidates. While fewer voters participated, it simplified the process of learning about the candidates. Under the present system, these races have been thrown into the mix with races for the presidency, the governor’s office and all other types of elected offices.

  36. - Roman - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 2:10 pm:

    == …in Cook County, at least. The party slates and those folks get in (with very rare exceptions). This is why our quality of judges is so low. ==

    The Cook Dems require slated candidates to be found qualified by the bar association. Some of them lose to non-qualified candidates because of ballot position, name, gender, etc.

  37. - Steve Rogers - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 2:17 pm:

    Keep the elective judiciary. With extreme partisanship on both aisles, I don’t necessarily trust a panel, governor, and/or senate to do any better than our popularly elected judges. It’s not perfect, but it works. While I know it always hasn’t been how it is today, but the seven justices, despite political differences, work together quite well. I’m sometimes surprised at some of the 4-3 and 5-2 decisions and an R justice ends up sharing a dissent with D. This is a long way of saying if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. We have enough truly broken things to worry about.

  38. - Paddyrollingstone - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 2:26 pm:

    Absolutely keep the current system. I have practiced in Chicago for over 25 years in both state and federal court. I believe that for the most part, the judges I appear before are good. Some are obviously better than others but I think the comments about how bad or judges are in Illinois is a little off-base.

  39. - Stevie Dan - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 2:28 pm:

    So, people are cool with the idea of Blago, Quinn, and Rauner having selected the state judiciary for the past 16 years? I’d argue the judiciary is much better off have been selected by election rather than by appointment during that span.

  40. - DougChicago - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 2:34 pm:

    Just have Ed Burke appoint them — save time.

  41. - Anyone Remember - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 2:34 pm:

    Realizing this is an Illinois-centric blog … what do other states do? Anyone have any experience with a state(s) that has Assisted Appointment? (A commission reviews and approves candidates and then the Governor selects from the list - Missouri does something similar.)

  42. - Nick Name - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 2:47 pm:

    As Trump and McConnell have shown us, the appointment process can be corrupted too.

  43. - DougChicago - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 2:51 pm:

    As an alternative — to spread things around in our democracy…

    Nominees could be selected by the Speaker of the House, the Chairman of the Illinois Arts Council and the immediate past Illinois Attorney General.

    And then from this list appointments to lower courts will be made by the Dean of the Chicago City Council and the Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court.

  44. - Token Conservative - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 3:21 pm:

    ==“I think popular election is a very bad way to select judges,”==

    I would assume every judge outside of Cook County agrees.

  45. - Amalia - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 4:41 pm:

    @Chicagonk, well played. appointed by Governor and confirmed by Senate for SC and Appellate Ct. with experience requirements. Circuit Court Judges appointed by SC with experience requirements. The experience requirements should be established by the Bar Associations.

  46. - MyTwoCents - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 5:24 pm:

    I think appointment/confirmation for appellate and Supreme Court justices is worth exploring. For circuit court, I’m good with elections, but make them non-partisan. If you retain the elections for appellate and Supreme Court, non-partisan as well. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen in Sangamon County anybody appointed to a judgeship has to have voted in GOP primaries, which seems a silly requirement for a judge.

  47. - West Side the Best Side - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 9:34 pm:

    Judges should first run in a nonpartisan primary, with the ballot available even to people who don’t want to declare a party. The top two vote getters would run in November, again with no party label. Retention judges should be evaluated by the bar associations and, if found by not qualified, be on a retention ballot, otherwise just be retained.

  48. - JackD - Wednesday, Sep 11, 19 @ 9:47 pm:

    As others have noted, you can’t get the politics out of it, state or federal. Remarkably, I can say based on 50 years of experience in the Cook County courts, the judges are surprisingly good. Maybe it’s something about the office making the man or woman as they used to say about the presidency. Maybe not so much about the presidency anymore.

  49. - Unionman - Thursday, Sep 12, 19 @ 9:27 am:

    For Supreme: Recommendation by by a non-partisan commission made up of statewide stakeholders to the Governor who nominates and then senate confirms. 10 year terms with a max of two terms. Following first term must be retained by 3/4 votes of voters Statewide.
    For Appellate: Recommendation by a non-partisan commission with required Appellate district stakeholders on the commission to the Governor, nominated by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate. 10 year terms with a max of two terms. Following first term must be retained by 3/5th votes of all voters in the Appellate District.
    Circuit: Recommendation by a non-partisan commission with required Circuit district stakeholders on the commission to the Governor, nominated by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate. 6 year terms with a max of three terms. Following each term must be retained by 3/5th votes of all voters in the Circuit.
    Get rid of associate justices and sub-circuits. No primaries for judges. Judges only on the November ballot.

  50. - Russell Killen - Thursday, Sep 12, 19 @ 11:20 am:

    Judges should not be appointed. A corrupt Governor would appoint them to rule in his favor.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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