Sunday, May 29, 2005

Judge Humphreys on judicial selection in Virginia

Earlier this month, Judge Humphreys of the Virginia Court of Appeals wrote for the Richmond paper this commentary, in which he said, among other things:

"Selecting judges who are consciously biased for or against a particular agenda in a process that ignores the truth, the law, and judicial ethics cannot be healthy for any judicial system. Judges who are well qualified by temperament and experience and who will faithfully follow the law rather than their supporters' agenda should logically be preferred in any court system. Yet in states where judges are popularly elected, the only question the selection process answers is which agenda will accompany the judge to court.

Virginia is one healthy step removed from the states that choose judges this way. Here, judges are neither elected directly by the voters nor appointed by the Governor but rather are chosen by the people's representatives in both houses of the legislature. This is not to say that Virginia's system is without warts or blemishes, but our judiciary has indisputably avoided the chronic corruption and perceived bias problems that have plagued the court systems of states where the judges are popularly elected.

Legislators can and should vote their conscience on whether a judge should be appointed or reappointed based upon professional credentials and independent performance evaluations. They do no service to the law or the public when their vote is based upon the outcome of an individual case. Fortunately, most legislators realize that if equality under the law is to mean anything, judges must faithfully and consistently apply laws and constitutional protections even when the result is unpopular."

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