Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Right Way … and the Really Wrong Way

I was just going over my notes from a recent train trip and came across an out-of-context scribble on one of the pages:

“Blog: Elected judges = crazy!”

I jotted that note just after the train passed a big billboard somewhere along the way … a county sheriff was campaigning for an elected position as a judge. The campaign theme was “He’ll Lock ‘Em Up!!” The more the merrier, I guess.

Unfortunately, the deciding factor in that race will have little to do with which bozo is qualified … where he went to law school and how much legal experience he has (if any). It will pretty much come down to which candidate raises the most money. And doesn’t that raise some interesting issues! Now you’ve got politician-judges who owe favors to people who helped them get elected.

We’ve got our fair share of political weirdness here in Hawaii, but this is one area where we got it right. We have a nine-member Judicial Selection Commission and only four of the nine can be lawyers. When there’s a vacancy, the Commission submits a list of approved candidates to the governor – not more than six names – who must make the appointment from that short-list.

In all my years in Hawaii, I can’t remember one time when there’s been a serious question of incompetence or scandal or conflict in our judiciary. There can be flaws in any system, and I’m sure ours isn’t perfect … but it sure as hell is better than having judges run for the office.

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