“Judges Who Are Elected Like Politicians Tend To Act Like Them.”
That was the headline of a New York Times essay last week. I’ve been saying that sort of thing since the last century.
I’ve told this story before, but it’s worth repeating (mainly because I like repeating it).
When I was a reporter for a big city newspaper many years ago, I got assigned once to cover local judicial elections. Soon I was discovering that in one race both candidates had switched parties to attract votes and in another race, one of the candidates tried to bribe me when I interviewed him.
It was pretty amazing. Just about everyone running who hadn’t been appointed before was terrible.
The briber even won his election, partly because the guy he beat was having some, um, interesting domestic issues.
No matter. The loser with the marital issues then got appointed to the bench anyway by, of course, a politician.
Still, I’ve had the general impression that appointed judges tend to be the better ones, but are they the fairer ones?
Now switch your attention to the Oct. 3 issue of the The New Yorker, where you’ll find a Jeffrey Toobin piece that tells us (in a lot of words) that appellate judges appointed by conservatives produce conservative rulings and appellate judges appointed by liberals produce liberal rulings.
You’d think that laws are laws and the Constitution means something definite, but apparently they’re nothing more than Rorschach tests.
So much for the concept of impartiality.
Is this a good thing?
I want say no, but I kind of like it when people I agree with get appointed. I’m outraged when the guys I disagree with get to make rulings.
OK, maybe this isn’t a good thing. Fortunately, I have a solution: artificial intelligence.
If humans are biased and/or prone to bribery and domestic issues, it makes sense to take humans out of the judicial process.
I know what you’re thinking — technology has already cost society enormous numbers of jobs. Do we want to create a new class of unemployed, homeless jurists?
Of course not. Newly unemployed judges should be offered training in marketable occupations such as running for office, instant commentary for news networks, and judicial computer maintenance.
We all have to adjust to modern society.
By the way, I should note here that a computer judge has another advantage: speed.
This is a good thing because political leanings aren’t the only problem with some judges. They can also be really slow.
Or really cantankerous.
Or maybe just forgetful.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s going on.
Case in point from just last month: the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals removed a federal trial judge from a case for failing to rule on a motion — for more than seven years.
According to the Clarion-Ledger, a Mississippi newspaper, the same judge previously took six years to enter a judgment in another case and also had more than 105 motions pending longer than six months.
So what was this guy doing?
I don’t know, but politics may once again be the answer — this is either a very effective filibuster or the judge is an admirer of Congress or both.
The judge, by the way, in a follow-up Clarion-Ledger story had lots of excuses including my favorite: he “blames former staffers for contributing to the backlog by not doing their jobs.”
This guy really should run for office.