How election-by-questionnaire is threatening independent judges.

The law, lawyers, and the court.
Oct. 19 2005 3:18 PM

Promissory Notes

How election-by-questionnaire is threatening independent judges.

(Continued from Page 1)

Above all, Americans need to be reminded that courts of law were not designed to deal with the kind of political pressure being generated by this bitter era of Red vs. Blue. As John Roberts reminded us during his confirmation hearings, judges shouldn't make promises in advance to interest groups in exchange for their gavels. We pay legislators and executives to sort out interest-group demands, to make the right promises and stick to them if they're elected. But courts are supposed to decide cases one at a time, based only on the facts and the law before them, instead of being held to broad promises made in response to political ultimatums.

As 30 states prepare for Supreme Court races next year, keep an eye on Kentucky, where 261 of the state's 266 elected judges will be on the ballot. Under pressure from a group called the Family Trust Foundation, the state high court will allow campaign statements that appear to commit judges to positions in advance of a case being heard. Judges there ought to stock up on No. 2 pencils: They're going to have a lot of forms to fill out next year.

Bert Brandenburg is the executive director of the Justice at Stake, a nonpartisan national organization.

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