Electing Judges

Why anyone thinks electing judges is a good idea is simply beyond me.  I understand the need for accountability, but the populace has a tough enough time understanding general political issues well enough to elect legislators — the task of understanding nuanced legal issues is often too much.  Besides, judges are supposed to act as a check against the other branches of government — enforcing the law even when it’s the exact opposite of what people are demanding.

Further complicating the problem is that being elected is messy business.  It requires money, and that money has to come from somewhere.  Witness the case of Don Blankenship, who inserted himself into a judicial re-election campaign when his company’s profits were on the line.

In 2004, he spent $3 million on tough advertisements attacking a justice of the State Supreme Court who was seeking re-election.

Brent D. Benjamin [the judge Blankenship supported] won that election and went on to join the 3-to-2 majority that threw out a $50 million jury verdict against Mr. Blankenship’s company, Massey Energy.

As an added bonus it turns out Blankenship is a regular sleazeball, who turned to misleading dirty advertising to defeat Justice McGraw’s re-election campaign:

Some of the advertisements said the justice had agreed to free a reprehensible sex offender.

Mr. Blankenship’s advertisements, which said Justice McGraw had released a pedophile, were rough and arguably misleading. They concerned a youth who had been sexually abused from the age of 7 by two adult family members and a teacher before going on, at the age of 14, to abuse a younger half-brother. The youth was released on probation soon after he turned 18.

Mr. Blankenship cheerfully conceded that his real objection was to Justice McGraw’s rulings against corporate defendants. “Being the street fighter that I am,” he said, he had instructed his aides to find a decision that would enrage the public.