Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Questionnaires allowed to Indiana judges

An Indiana federal court ruled yesterday that judicial candidates can answer questionnaires concerning their position on various issues. (Thank God for the headline, which disentangled the nasty negative-laden first line describing what happened. "...granted an injunction against rules preventing...") Previously, candidates weren't allowed to make "pledges or promises" about their future conduct or "commit or appear to commit" themselves to positions on certain issues. On the one hand, voting for a candidate without knowledge of their stance on the issues seems to be a bit odd. On the other, I'm not certain the founders wanted cases to be tried by popular vote. Dana, I know we talked about this issue a bit this last weekend, I'm curious as to the legal side of this. I know you mentioned something to the effect of what the original Indiana law held.

Eliminating elections altogether from the judicial process is probably the best answer. Russ Sobel and Josh Hall find that states with appointed judges have better judicial systems than those who elect judges, though most of the difference between the two is due to the fact that partisan elections are particularly bad. Indiana elects their judges but in a nonpartisan manner (thus the questionnaires to extract party-like information). For what it's worth, Indiana is actually tied for the 6th in the state judicial system rankings.

In related Indiana news, my mom sends along this story of self-regulating nuns at the polls.


danarch said...

I stand by my stance that electing judges should be an idea that is laid to rest. In the higher courts, you can see what a judges position is on issues based on what he has ruled in earlier cases; if they've never been a judge before maybe the voters need to be voting based on experience and if they believe the candidate will uphold the rule of law, not whether or not they think abortion should be illegal. If the people of Indiana want someone to overturn Roe v. Wade, they should be voting for the legislators not judges. You have to love, though, how these same groups that are asking the questionnaires are first to rail against "activist judges".

Perhaps I'm too ill right now to be posting on such issues, especially since i really really hate right to life groups.

Unknown said...

North Carolina also elects non-partisan judges. It started in 2004, I believe. It look like NC is 16 in the rankings...