Saturday, June 2, 2012

Thoughts and Observations about Judicial Election, Rapidly Approaching

June 5 is approaching rapidly, and who knows what the outcome will be in the judicial races, but there are some very revealing things which mandate improvement, reflection, consideration, and apologies.

The state Constitution commands that trial court judges sit for election every 6 years. Like it or not, that is the law. Those who do not like the law should work to have it changed, but they should not flout it, nor should they try to con people into not fully enjoying the rights the law gives. [Yes, yes, I know that "rights" are not given by government but inhere in the human condition, but those are the inalienable rights spoken of in the Declaration, not the social compact rights that have to do with non-fundamental, non-reserved things.]

Given that citizens of this state have a constitutional right to subject those who are to serve as their trial court judges to a full, and fully contested election, any affirmative effort to get the voters not to enjoy that right is improper. Moreover, given that voters have a First Amendment right to hear from candidates seeking their vote, and given that the candidates have a First Amendment right to speak to those electors, any effort [especially by people in government] to deny either side the opportunity for that exchange of information is grievous misconduct of a constitutional scope.

There were two judges, and their chum from the local Bar, who trotted around to various organizations, including the local newspaper, arrogantly condemning those who would dare to run against their pals on the bench, and insipidly suggesting that the voters are not smart enough to know who should be their judges - only the sitting judges are smart enough to know, is their self-serving story. But topping off that outrage was pressure they put on the leadership of one local citizens organization to withdraw an invitation already made to me to speak to their membership, 10 minutes before I was to speak. That leadership temporarily caved in and asked me to leave, but they then thought better of it [because of pressure from members who do read and understand the Constitution], and they invited me back the following month. But the damage to our Constitution and to unstated standards of our republican form of government was already inflicted, and it will have to be addressed in the most aggressive terms after the election, regardless of which way the levers are pulled. And from that a new rule of judicial conduct must be promulgated making it per se bench-removal time if any sitting judges put pressure on groups or individuals to not fully enjoy their electoral rights, or to silence candidates, or to invite or disinvite anyone running for office from making a presentation to citizens. The cheeky arrogance involved there merits an apology from the errant judges, both to the citizens and to me. People who do not understand that judges are simply public servants like other politicians tend to give more heed to judges when they make requests and demands, and that must and will stop after this election.

Well, what about judges standing together; doesn't it mean something? Here is an item about the corrupt Orange County Judge, Richard Stanford, and the 62 judges who stood with him, extoling his "virtues"; so much for the merits and validity of support from fellow judges:

The electorate needs to understand that they have the full power to decide who is to exercise the public's judicial power, and that power belongs to the people, not to the government nor to the judges. As part of that understanding, they need to realize that the "vetting" we heard so much about regarding the haughty "how dare you vote against judges the governor appoints" message blasted to the electorate by sitting judges and their supporters is a hoax. Indeed, I heard "vetting" and "vetted" more times in the 2 months I have worked on my campaign than during the rest of my life. It is as when an illiterate hears a big, new word, and he then repeats it over and over and over in every conversation for the next year to sound erudite, somewhat making a fool of himself. [Glenn Beck did that with "shift in the paradigm," without comprehending the meaning!]

The only "vetting" that is important in any election, judicial or otherwise, is that done by the voters! The fact that the governor received sifted and selective information about potential appointees and decided from that whom to appoint [mostly Democrats for Democrat governors and mostly Republicans for Republican governors] proves nothing except that the sifting made the political decision easier. In this vaunted "vetting," questionnairs are sent to establishment types who can reliably be counted on not to make waves about who gets appointed - people like me and most aggressive criminal or constitutional lawyers who will be searchingly and fiercely honest about the credentials, or their absence, of people being considered generally do not receive questionnairs! And too, I personally know of one attorney whose assistance has been solicited by several prosepective appointees to edit and polish up the writing samples they were submitting to the governor, because they were functionally illiterate. He/she did help them, some of whom are on the bench! So much for "vetting"!

The vetting by thousands of voters is more valuable than that by one governor, and the qualifications one demonstrates at the time of appointment might be vastly different from what he/she is shown to possess or lack after years on the bench. One of the first questions on the application to the governor is what political party does one belong to and for how long! Is that a "merit" question?

We need to demand of those seeking election/re-election to the bench that they share how they feel about certain legal and constitutional doctrines, so the "vetting" by the electorate is competent. I heard several people who were seeking the voters' support respond to voters' questions with something like "Uh, the canons prevent me from telling you how I feel about such things." GARBAGE! The canons [rules controlling what judges and judicial candidates can/should say] prevent candidates from making "commitments," while expressly recognizing that people do not surrender their constitutional rights of expression to run for the judiciary and have the right to share that information.

The candidates who say they cannot answer voters' questions because of the canons either do not know what the canons say and are simply spouting something they heard someone else say, or they do not want the voters to know either (1) their beliefs, or (2) that they don't know enough about the subject to articulate their beliefs. Any candidate who says he/she cannot answer general questions of law, or any candidate whose representative says that, should automatically be rejected at the ballot box.

Another thing that needs to change is the cost of the candidates' statement in the ballot materials. The voters have a fundamental right to know something about the people on any ballot, and the candidates on the ballot have a fundamental right to share with voters who and what they are. Yet, it costs $17,000 to put the couple hundred word statement in the materails. That is just outrageous, and it guarantees only people who are well-heeled, or who have big money supporters, will be able to share that vital information. There should be no fee for that vital service, if an informed electorate has any value to this "democracy."

One troubling thing arose early on, in regards to this paper's endorsement policies. Knowing that there were 4 races in which the judicial seat was being put up for electoral contest, and knowing that the judges obviously did not want to have to run for election [the judges apparently believing their seats are entitlements sort of like welfare recpients' monthly dole], the paper nevertheless allowed two judges and their attorney pal to meet with the editors to lobby for the judges' position that the voters had no role in the election! I was not invited to present the counter-argument! And then later each judge was allowed to lobby that position too, in the individual interviews. So there was double lobbying by the judges, against which the challengers had to compete in their interviews, but by then the editors had their minds made up and they predictably endorsed the sitting judges because..., well, they are sitting judges! If there is going to be a round of endorsement interviews, the deck should not thus be stacked against the challengers. With it being thus stacked, the enterprise was really a charade.

It is often said that the voting public gets the government it deserves, but sometimes those of us who are concerned about wise and neutral and thoughtful government do not get the government we deserve, because the majority of voters is swayed by improper factors of the sorts suggested here, and otherwise. So, when June 5 gets here, first ask yourself if you like the way things are in this Republic, and in its courtrooms, right now, and then analyze what should be changed and why, and keep in mind that incumbency is not necessarily a virtue - sometimes it is merely a sign of sloth or inertia. If you read my endorsements, you will see that I am supported on the left and on the right, and you can read what individuals have said about me and why. If you want scholarship, neutrality, thoughfulness, respect for all who appear in court, and faithfulness to the Constitution, vote for me. If you are not interested in that, vote for my opponent.

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