Our blog has moved, and is new and improved.

You should be automatically redirected in 3 seconds. If not, visit
and update your bookmarks.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Momentum building toward retention-election approach for judges

The Star Tribune today published an editorial advocating amending the Minnesota Constitution to reform judicial elections. The Strib has weighed in on the side of switching from our current system of contested elections (i.e. a system of incumbents and challengers) to a system of retention elections (a periodic vote on whether or not an incumbent should be retained). The system supported by the Strib was recommended by the majority of the Quie Commission, a blue-ribbon citizen's group that studied how to spare Minnesota the special-interest fueled partisan judicial races that have gripped some of our sister states.

Unmentioned in the Strib editorial is the approach that is the first choice of the Minnesota State Bar Association (and the Quie Commission minority) -- eliminating judicial elections altogether. Under this system, accountability would come in the form of periodic reviews of judges by a nonpartisan committee. The committee, rather than voters, would decide whether or not to retain judges.

For a while the legal community has been uncertain which approach would be followed. Both proposals have advantages and drawbacks. But recently, momentum has been building toward the retention-election model, (Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Russell Anderson is now among its supporters).

For judicial election reform to have any chance of passage, it is clear that its backers would eventually have to unite under a single banner. The retention-election approach now appears to be the clear favorite in this horse race. But it's still premature for its advocates to uncork the champagne. As the New England Patriots can attest to, you've got to look out for the underdog.

No comments: