The ways in which judges are chosen vary from state to state. Just as there are a wide variety of methods that are used to choose judges, there are a wide variety of opinions from people on the way judges should be chosen.
But many people do not know the basics of what is involved in the judicial selection process, whichever method is used. Judicial Selection and Retention FAQs from the National Center for State Courts' Knowledge and Information Services is a good place to start for the person who would like a basic understanding of the overall topic.
The method of selecting judges in the State of Ohio continues to be mired in controversy. Judges in Ohio are elected in nonpartisan elections. However, if there is a mid-term vacancy, the vacancy is filled by gubernatorial appointment until the next election for that judgeship is held. While these elections are technically nonpartisan, political parties and special interest groups are intricately involved. The American Judicature Society has some very interesting pages on Ohio judicial selection including an introduction, current methods, history of judicial selection reform, judicial campaigns and elections, and diversity on the bench.
If political parties and special interest groups are involved, you can bet your bottom dollar that big money is also a very major player. That is the topic of an interesting article entitled “Money Talks” with the subtitle “In a race for Ohio Supreme Court, one candidate spoke freely about his views and the other filled his war chest. Guess who won.” by Andrew Goldstein which is a must-read.
The Justice at Stake organization claims that it “works to protect courts from special interest groups and partisan pressure.” Its website has a press release dated October 30, 2006 with the headline “Next Ohio Governor Should Fill Court Vacancies Based On Merit, Not Politics, Says Justice at Stake Campaign” Guess What? The Justice at Stake organization got what it wanted. This is clearly ascertained by reading the January 30, 2007 press release on the website of The Supreme Court of Ohio entitled “Gov. Strickland Announces Executive Order on Judicial Selection.” The Governor did indeed appoint a panel to make recommendations of candidates to him for gubernatorial appointment of judges to vacant judicial positions. I have a question. Is not the Justice at Stake organization a special interest group?
Many people believe the election of judges should be entirely eliminated. They believe merit selection is the route to go because they believe it will remove politics from the judicial selection process. I disagree. Any panel that makes recommendations of judicial candidates for appointment is composed of people who are themselves appointed by means of a political process. In the current situation in Ohio, the panel is appointed by the Governor who is himself a politically partisan elected official. Why on earth would anyone think, even for a minute, that a politically partisan elected official would not consider politics in making the appointments to such a panel??? It’s all politics, any way you cut it!