Judge Not, Lest Ye … Oh, Just Go Ahead
For many of us, election time can be overwhelming: We understand that we have the opportunity to create significant change, both for ourselves and for the people around us, but we also know that voting for the wrong candidate can perpetuate a bad situation, or make matters worse. Few voters have adequate time or inclination to research the views, qualifications, and past behavior of election candidates, while television smear campaigns just make viewers tired of all the mudslinging.
In a letter to the editor of the Sedalia Democrat, John S. Johnston, president of the Missouri Bar, offers voters a tool to make an informed decision regarding the selection and retention of nonpartisan judges. The Missouri Bar website features a section called “Judging the Judges,” which presents the findings of Judicial Performance Evaluation Committees — nonpartisan committees made up of both lawyers and non-lawyers. According to Johnston:
The committees have a completely non-partisan agenda: to provide voters with the unbiased information they need to cast an informed ballot.
The committees have published their evaluations along with surveys of lawyers’ ratings, jurors’ ratings and samples of appellate judge’s written opinions.
You can investigate your local judges by checking out “Judging the Judges” and clicking on the area where you live.
In addition to selecting specific judges, citizens also have the power to vote to retain or kick out judges after they have served for one year, thanks to the Missouri Plan, adopted in 1940. The Springfield News-Leader also explains how, since 2008, residents of Greene County try to keep politics out of judicial processes, by voting each term whether to retain or get rid of each judge, based on a system of merits.
Online tools like “Judging the Judges” are great, because they educate voters about judicial candidates, and also because they present new ways for the populace to become involved in the process, helping put power back into the hands of the voters.