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“Electing Judges Is Insane”: Justice Judith French, ‘Forget All Those Other Votes If You Don’t Keep The Ohio Supreme Court Conservative’

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.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, October 31, 2014

November 2, 2014 Posted by | Judicial Activism, Judiciary | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Federal Crime”: Judge Mark Fuller, A Man Who Clearly Has No Business Being On The Federal Bench

For the past few weeks, the indispensable investigative journalist Brad Friedman has covered the case of George W. Bush-appointed US District Court Judge Mark Fuller of Alabama, who’s notorious for his role in the railroading of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. Last month, Fuller was arrested for allegedly attacking his wife in a Georgia hotel in a manner reminiscent of the National Football League’s paragons of family values. However, as Friedman has noted, there’s a creepy possibility that Fuller could avoid any real legal accountability for his alleged behavior.

This horrifying story has, unfortunately, stayed under the radar of the mainstream media, with the recent exception of MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes. Now, in an explosive follow-up, Friedman has revealed new details about a man who clearly has no business being on the federal bench:

…Fuller is not necessarily off the hook for prosecution in a court of law yet. The terms of his plea deal, reportedly, require that, in addition to attending once-a-week domestic abuse counseling for 24 weeks, Judge Fuller must also receive an evaluation concerning drug and alcohol abuse by a court-approved entity.

If he successfully completes those requirements, only then will his arrest record be permanently expunged.

Fuller’s attorney, after the plea deal was approved in state court with the consent of Fuller’s wife Kelli, the victim in this case, stated that the federal judge “doesn’t have a drug or alcohol problem and never has.”

That, like the claim that he is a first time offender in regard to domestic abuse, does not appear to be true, at least according to Fuller’s first wife Lisa who filed a damning Request for Admissions during their 2012 divorce, after Fuller was allegedly discovered to have been having an affair with his court bailiff, Kelli, who he eventually married (and subsequently beat the hell out of last month, after she similarly accused him of having an affair with his law clerk.)

According to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in 2012, the first wife, Lisa Boyd Fuller, “submitted an objection to her husband’s motion to seal their divorce file…She agreed to redact certain sensitive information but ‘strenuously object[ed] to sealing the entire file,’ according to her response. Her initial complaint and request for admissions accuse Fuller of extramarital affairs, domestic violence and prescription drug abuse.”

Friedman’s coverage of the Fuller horror has been extraordinary. After reading the gruesome details of this story, how can one not join the growing chorus of those demanding that Fuller resign or be impeached?

 

By: D. R. Tucker, Washington Monthly Political Animal, September 20, 2014

September 21, 2014 Posted by | Domestic Violence, Judge Mark Fuller, Judiciary | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“For Sale -Going Fast”: An Independent Judiciary — Buy A Judge Today

According to the New York Times the retention election of three Tennessee judges “has been preceded by an expensive and acrimonious campaign bolstered by organizations like Americans for Prosperity, which receives financial support from the billionaires Charles G. and David Koch and other conservative groups”. Those supporting retention of the judges have been compelled to raise “more than $1 million” to combat the effort to defeat them. Could there be anything more unseemly or contrary to the purposes for which the judiciary was established?

I do not doubt that there are persons out there (and even corporations now) who contribute to judicial campaigns for the purpose of electing or retaining judges who are fair, competent and impartial and who will carry out the applicable laws and enforce the state and federal constitutions. Then there are the other 99 percent who wish to influence particular matters or judicial philosophy in general. Judges are not and were never intended to be elected representatives. I cringe at the constant contention that judges should be held “accountable”. They are accountable to the laws and the Constitution. They should not be subject to the whim of those who find certain past rulings objectionable or seek to influence future ones by buying elections. Nothing could weaken the independence of the judiciary more than having judges removed or not re-elected because of prior decisions that they have made.

The whole concept of judicial independence is that judges should feel to rule as they deem correct without fear of retaliation. Nor should judges undertake the position with some feeling that they are indebted to those who have financed their election. Per the Times: “The Republican State Leadership Committee, a national group, plans to spend at least $5 million on judicial races this year.” Why? Because they want to influence future judicial decisions.

Let’s face it — this movement is exclusively a conservative one. Conservatives own it. Judges are to be ousted for “liberal” rulings like upholding same-sex marriage, ordering new trials in death penalty cases or generally ruling in favor of persons charged with crimes — stuff like upholding the Constitution. Judicial elections are degrading. Voters do not know whether or not the candidates are qualified. And finally money has further corrupted the process. I have said on prior occasions: Can you imagine a lawyer or a litigant walking up to a judge in the middle of a trial and handing the judge a check for his or her campaign? Would it make any difference if the check was delivered a week before? And isn’t it even worse now that the big boys are coming in with even bigger checks?

We should end judicial elections entirely, but until we do, we must find a way to limit the corrupting influence of money in the election process and stop putting the judiciary up for sale.

 

By: Judge H. Lee Sarokin, The Huffington Post Blog, August 7, 2014

August 8, 2014 Posted by | Judges, Judiciary | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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