Merit Selection Would Solve for Problems with Judicial Elections

By Attorney Gregg Herman
December 12, 2012

The Kansas Bar Association recently adopted a resolution calling for merit selection of appellate judges.  The resolution stated as follows:

RESOLVED, that the Kansas Bar Association supports the merit selection system for appellate judges and justices, independent of how merit panel members are selected. The present application, interview, questioning and selection process provides the best available information to identify and select the most qualified appellate judges and justices, independent of political considerations.

No kidding.

We are about to have a highly contested supreme court election.  There are already three announced candidates and there may be a fourth as well.  This means weeks of advertisements of how tough each candidate will be on crime.  In judicial politics, being tough on crime “pays” in terms of votes.  In real life, about 2/3 of cases which the court reviews are civil cases.  Yet no one campaigns on being “tough on torts” or “tough on jurisdiction under the UCC.”  (I don’t even understand what that means!).

As anyone who practices law can attest, the quality of the judge is critical to the functioning of our legal system.  The judge controls the calendar, sets a tone for the proceedings and assures a result within ranges of fairness.  Given the absurdity of judicial electioneering (case in point:  the famous Gableman ad in his campaign against Justice Butler) it is amazing that we have as many fine judges as we do.

Merit selection is not, of course, a guarantee of getting quality judges as politics would undoubtably play a role.  But, it would eliminate the embarrassment of the commercials which make the presidential election ads look dignified.  It would be nice if Wisconsin bar associations would adopt resolutions similar to that of the Kansas bar.

Attorney Gregg Herman is a founding partner of Loeb & Herman, LLC in Milwaukee, WI. He practices family law exclusively, and can be reached via e-mail or by calling (414) 272-5632.