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December 10, 2009


Bob Johns

Justice O'Connor's public comments opposing judicial elections conflate two issues: judicial elections and campaign fundraising. Her concerns appear to revolve not around elections, but around the problems associated with partisan elections where judges raise money from private donations. There are many states with judicial elections where the races are also non-partisan and publicly-funded. Additionally, merit selection systems also have significant problems as well. For example, the committees that select judges can be dominated by political concerns, which rather than eliminating politics from judicial selection, merely hides it from public scrutiny.

There has been a lot of academic study comparing elected and appointed judges. The conclusions from decades of research are that there is not much difference between the two. Appointed judges write slightly higher-quality opinions, but balancing that out is the fact that elected judges work harder and write more opinions overall.

The judicial system in the United States most in need of reform is the federal judiciary. Most states have updated and modernized their judicial selection systems over the last 220 years. There have been no real constitutional updates to the institution of the federal judiciary, though, since 1789. Seventy percent of Americans believe that the federal judiciary is in need of reform. is an organization set up to promote a set of four amendments to help fix our country. They advocate for a constitutional amendment imposing term limits on federal judges and giving voters the chance to vote up or down on every judge (the other amendments they support are for balanced budgets, congressional term limits, and a prohibition on unfunded mandates on the states).'s strategy is based on encouraging state legislators to request a constitutional convention to propose amendments. Under Article V of the US Constitution, when 2/3 of the states have made such requests, Congress will be required to call such a convention. Given our current national problems, reform of the federal government is where our energies would best be spent.

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