In Florida and South Dakota, circuit court judges are selected through nonpartisan elections. Cases in state courts range from the enforcement of traffic violations to the standards and procedures essential to the guarantee of individual liberty.
More states are experiencing high-spending judicial contests and such contests are no longer confined to partisan races or highly competitive nonpartisan elections.
One of the strongest arguments in favor of life tenure is that it insulates federal judges from such conflicts, especially from potential employers who come before their chambers.
It could lead to far too many Supreme Court precedents being overturned, or far too few. This proposal could exacerbate those fights and lead conservatives to try to appoint even more extreme nominees. Nomination fights over appellate judgeships would be more intense given the greater influence any one appellate judge could wield as part of a Supreme Court panel.
Even if judges can separate themselves from personal biases, their association with such groups bring into question their objectivity—and, in turn, the legitimacy of their rulings.
These groups target races in which the outcome may shift the perceived direction of a court or provide the marginal vote or votes needed to improve the prospects of a preferred policy outcome.
After recruiting and reviewing candidates, the Commission submits a list of at least three nominees to the governor, no more than 60 percent of whom may be members of the same political party.
To facilitate periodic review and evaluation of judges for purposes of reappointment, we support the establishment of independent and nonpartisan judicial performance evaluation commissions, similar to those now used in Arizona and other states.
Given the breadth of the problem, however, policymakers also need to consider more far-reaching approaches, such as undoing conservative court packing, reducing the influence of partisan judges, and ensuring greater judicial accountability.
To that end, progressives should focus on nominating and confirming fair-minded judges with diverse backgrounds, rather than narrow-minded conservative elitists. But in recent years state courts have often been presented with cases related to issues that are focal points of national policy debate, such as the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.