Candidates should appear on the ballot if:

Thursday, July 5, 2007

No Judicial Barons

A pattern seems to be emerging from recent court decisions - it's not only Oklahoma. The 2008 election means big trouble for candidates of the entrenched parties at the federal level and maybe deeper. The judges are ruling on cases to keep insurgent parties and independent candidates off the ballot in 2008. The Supreme Court signals it will back up these decisions. Look at the details on Richard Winger's Ballot Access News for just the last few months.

Perhaps before the 2008 General Election a coalition will emerge to reject all state judges up for retention who have demonstrated a zest for ballot access suppression. Oklahoma is only the worst of the worst. It getting worse all over. Expect more case law in the next few months to suppress defections from the entrenched parties. It would be interesting and gratifying to see a dozen or so judges lose their jobs in 2008. It would certainly pack more political punch than a "third party" or independent presidential candidate getting a few million votes no matter which way it tips the electoral college - if at all.

What might the fall out be? A flurry of constitutional amendments from state legislatures to remove judges from the reach of the voters probably. And more law journal articles about how crappy American election law is. Can the entrenched establishment get away with election nullification? When a ruling class becomes really desperate, their actions can provoke revolution. The ruling coalition starts to break ranks and run for cover and another "evil empire" bites the dust. Maybe...

Overall, 87% of state court judges face the voters either through direct or retention election, according to the National Center for State Courts ( However, the most common way to gain a seat on the bench is through a midterm appointment – more than half of all state judges initially take the bench this way. Currently, there are six methods or combinations of methods for selecting judges for both appellate and general jurisdiction courts:
• Sixteen states use some form of merit selection through a nominating commission;
• Six states use gubernatorial or legislative appointment without a nominating commission;
• Eight states have partisan elections;
• Thirteen states have nonpartisan elections;
• Nine states – including Missouri – combine merit selection with elections for different levels of court and jurisdictions; and
• Nine states using elections have merit plans only to fill
mid-term vacancies on some or all levels of their courts.

These people aren't barons. They are parolees serving to protect the rights of citizens. If they fail to show 'good behavior', their paroles should be revoked and they can go back to being just lawyers.

I think an evaluation of the rulings of sitting judges and justices on issues of electoral equity could produce a 'ten most unwanted list' for rejection at the polls. Initially three nominees for 'most unwanted' are three Justices of the Oklahoma Supreme Court in 2008 - Colbert, Lavender and Watt. It shouldn't be too hard in the next 12 months to find seven more in the country.

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