People have asked me whether and how they should vote for judges who appear on the ballot with a “yes” or “no” option. I explain this vote is not to elect judges – they have already been appointed by the Governor after going through an extensive review process by the Governor’s office, an appointed Commission, and local Bar Associations, including ours. California law requires, however, that we periodically vote on whether to “retain” these judges.
The integrity of our legal system depends on an independent judiciary and assumes that judges will rule based on the facts and the law, not on political ideology or popularity concerns.
What if you have never heard of a particular judge and are not sure whether a judge is qualified to serve? Consider that a procedure already exists for removing a judge who acts inappropriately, without reference to political affiliation or popularity. In that sense, a “yes” vote is a vote for an independent judiciary.
While you may feel that justice is not always served in our courts, it is critical to maintain the court’s independence from the political battlefield. Our system of democracy depends on it.
– Robert J. Frassetto, President, Alameda County Bar Association
Looking for more information? Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote a great piece for the League of Women voters in 2008 that holds up very well. You can read the article here.