Contributed by John Todd and William T. Davitt. I fully agree.
A recent editorial in The Wichita Eagle discussed how trial court judges in Kansas are selected by either election or appointment. We favor neither method.
Election of judges invites corruption because attorneys and other special-interest groups contribute money to judges’ election campaigns. It is doubtful whether one voter in 10 could even name two of the 25 judges currently on the court. And if they could name two judges, would they have any idea regarding their job performance? Thus it appears that voters do not make an “informed choice” in the voting booth, and instead select judges based on name recognition, party affiliation or yard-sign count.
Appointment of judges invites corruption because attorneys and other special interests maneuver their members onto the selection committee that sends the names to the governor, and then they go behind the scenes and tell the governor which one they really want.
We favor a third way of selecting judges as advocated by Gerry Spence in his book “From Freedom to Slavery.” Mr. Spence favors having our judges drafted from a pool of trial lawyers who would serve on the bench for a “limited calendar of cases” before being returned to their private practices. Every trial lawyer would be required to support the system in the same manner, as citizens are now required to serve as jurors.
Court dockets would soon clear out, because enough judges could be drafted as were needed to clear the dockets. Mr. Spence states: “If judges were drafted, we would no longer be saddled for life with the political cronies of those in power, or be faced with judges who have received campaign contributions from our opponents. To be sure, we would experience some bad judges. But, Lord knows, we have them now — and often for life! On the other hand, we would benefit from the best minds in the legal business, who under our present system rarely seek the judiciary.”
Democracy requires full faith that justice will be administered with absolute impartiality. That faith is certainly challenged if we enter a courtroom knowing that our opponent has contributed substantial money to our trial judge’s last election campaign or that the judge was endorsed for appointment by a group or corporation that opposes our position in court. The current methods of electing or appointing judges offer little comfort in view of their corrosive effect on public confidence in the court system.
John R. Todd is a Wichita real estate broker. William T. Davitt is a Wichita lawyer.