How politics might influence the selection process of federal judges.
The judiciary serves a significant role within a democratic society –preserving the rule of law. In order to accomplish this, the judges must consistently and fairly interpret the law and remain free from undue political influence. Many times the aspects of the judges being free even in the process of their selection has not been the case due to the politics of the land in a number of ways:
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First, various states deploy different methods for their selection of judges. For instance, in the 29 states, the legislature of governor appoints judges; whereas in 21 states a system of popular elections are applied to select judges (Dubois, 2011). Among the states whichelect judges, 8 of them rely on partisan elections, that is the judicial candidates run as a member of a given political party, whereas the other 13 states use a system of nonpartisan elections.
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The completely politicized nature of the partisan elections poses some doubt and questions on their ability to sufficiently conduct a selection of unbiased judges. A good example is provided by the 2004 state supreme court election in the West Virginia. The election happened to be most expensive judicial election in the country in 2004, with the Democratic incumbent spending cash amounting to $376,000 vis a vis the opponents $540,000. Addition, this spending was hindered by the spending on political advertisements and publicity by some other groups within the state (Geyh, 2013).
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In case a fair and an unbiased judicial system is considered that important, then it is obvious that having judicial candidates run for office on political platforms, with huge support from business or labor groups, is conflicting this particular goal (Besley & Payne, 2012). These concerns put the focus on two issues in relation to the determinants of judicial quality. The first issue inquires whether thestates that are using partisan elections do have a lower judicial quality. If this is the case, do the states with partisan judicial elections have judicial outcomes which clearly differ in relation to which political party controls the court?
How federal judges’ political ideologies might influence judicial outcomes
In those particular states with partisanelections, the citizens are used to this political bias within their judicial elections, and usually there is no veil that judicial decisions would be unbiased. The public opinion polls conducted from these partisan election states affirms this claim. According to Geyh (2013), polls from Ohio and Texas find that more than 80 percent of adults surveyed believe that the campaign contributions to judges who run for elections have a great significant influence on the subsequent judicial decisions the judges would finally make.
Besley and Payne (2012) find that the states appointing their judges do have significantly lower levels of filings in comparison to those states which elect their judges. They hypothesize two potential reasons as to why judicial outcomes could differ between appointed and elected systems. Firstly, the choice of the judicial selection method could cause a difference in precisely what types of personsactually become judges (Tabarrok & Helland, 2009).
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This happens not only due the selection criteria being different, but also due to the fact that different types of potential judges could self-select into a potential pool of judicial candidates exercising a specific political ideology in their course of work, thereby compromising the judicial outcomes. Secondly,the other source of potential difference comes from the incentive effects formed by the need for elected judges to face popular reelection. The fact that they are facing a reelection constraint might alter the incentives judges face when making a decision on the cases. It is concluded by Besley and Payne that it is the incentive effect of facing reelection whichresults to the difference they document in their data.
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