One thing I really don’t do is rubberneck traffic accidents. When I am king, rubbernecking will be a felony.
Except for traffic accidents, I am a rubbernecker. My worst rubbernecking comes in comment sections of articles and blog posts. I found this one this morning talking about the election of Maryland Court of Special Appeals judges. Really, I would like to get all of the time back in my life that I have spent reading this kinda garbage. It reminds me of what that guy said when looking at The Kramer: “He is a loathsome, offensive brute… yet I can’t look away.” I need to do a better job of looking away. (Memo to my 2011 New Year’s resolutions file.)
In an “election” for the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, Marylanders are given an up/down vote on judges. Think Soviet Union 1958 (hey, look, Khrushchev won again – good for him). But having these judges on the ballot is a waste of time. All of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals judges should be retained because none of them have been accused of any ethical violations. We should just skip the show altogether and give these judges a single term or life tenure (of course, Maryland defines life as age 70 but that is a whole other story). Practically, this is what we are doing anyway.
Some people are going to vote against the Maryland Court of Special Appeals judges. This is fine. Voters are playing within the system. But I would like to poll the voters who vote against the CSA judges and ask them, “What opinion did the judge write that made you vote no?” I will bet you that less than 1% of people voting “no” can answer.
A Fair Race and an Unfair Race
The big race in my jurisdiction is Kratovil-Harris. I’m not sure who is going to win and I’m worried my choice is going to lose. Still, I feel like the electorate will have spoken. I think if Kratovil loses, it will be a referendum vote on President Obama’s first two years more than a vote for Harris. I think this is completely unfair but I don’t think it is unreasonable (if that makes sense). But in all of these judicial elections in Maryland (certainly Ronald Jarashow/Laura Kiessling/Alison Asti is the closest example to home), I don’t think voters are really in a position to make reasonable choices.
Why Elections Don’t Make Sense
I do think it is interesting how most of the strict intent of the Founding Fathers (must be capital Fs, of course) in Maryland tends to support the idea of judicial elections. The same people that would defer to the Founding Fathers judgment on just about everything else are the same people that ignore their view, while not binding on the states, that the judiciary be independently chosen by the executive branch with consent of the legislature.
It can be a problem in Maryland that judges don’t have to answer to anyone. Judges are vested with great power and some of them choose to abuse that power. It would be nice to find a better system to check that power; however, I can’t think of one that is better than the one we already have in place (although I’m sure it exists). But in a republic, you don’t turn over every single choice to the voter. You pick and choose your spots. Voting for the judiciary is just a bad idea and we need to change it. We are voting today to amend the constitution to increase the minimum amount of a lawsuit filed in District Court wherein a defendant can pray a jury trial, from $10,000 to $15,000. If we can change the constitution on something like this, we ought to also be able to make big picture changes like how we retain judges in Maryland.
I want to end this with some sort of bravado like, “Enjoy voting for judges today because it might be the last chance you ever have.” But, honestly, I suspect I will cut and paste this blog post and try to pass it off as original content in 20 years. Because it is going to be hard to get any real inertia for change.