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Ask Slashdot: How To Become Informed In Judicial Elections?

timothy posted about a year and a half ago | from the today's-the-day dept.

Government 153

First time accepted submitter yincrash writes "Today I've been looking up information on local elections and have found it virtually impossible to determine information on judicial elections, both with regards to information on the candidate, and what makes a good judge. Is there a good way to find information on these candidates? chooseyourjudges.org seems to agree that this is basically an impossible task. What do slashdotters do in an information vacuum? Just abstain from voting? Write-in something in protest?"

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153 comments

Complain to the Bar (5, Informative)

roccomaglio (520780) | about a year and a half ago | (#41892951)

The Bar does not allow judge candidates to answer many of the questions you would like answered. This professional organization is choosing to require the judge candidates to withhold this information. If the candidates do not follow the rules set by the bar they could loose their law license and be ineligible to be a judge. Your only option is to complain to the Bar in hopes that they will be influenced by your complaint.

Re:Complain to the Bar (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41893313)

I tend to watch judgements in general and not specifically. I use my vote to send a message (which may or may not be fair or even heard) to judges as a community. In a year where things are going reasonably, all existing judges get on the ballot are voted back in. In a year where judgements seem bizarre, lacking common sense, or otherwise bad then all judges on the ballot are voted out. If it is a seat that was not previously occupied by one of the candidates (new, retirement, death), then I look at the credentials and usually pick longest experience or best education. Sometimes that is a coin toss when comparing highly educated with highly experienced or two similar candidates.

Re:Complain to the Bar (4, Insightful)

donutz (195717) | about a year and a half ago | (#41893697)

Sometimes that is a coin toss when comparing highly educated with highly experienced or two similar candidates.

In cases like this, or where there is plainly not enough information, leave that one blank -- don't vote for either unknown. Unless your ballot stupidly requires you not to leave any races blank (are there such ballots?)

Re:Complain to the Bar (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41893341)

The comment above indicates that the BAR should have no control over candidates PERIOD. However; the basic question here is one of involvement of the electorate. I have been involved in elections for a long time including judicial ones. I too find them difficult to get real info on. The only way I know to get the information is to actually meet the judge and ask challenging questions on various issues to draw them out about how they see the process. This often also involved provocative assertations to the person about what a judge should do in certain situations.

I guess I could observe quite accurately that voting without knowledge of what you are doing is about the equivalent to taking a machine gun and shooting it wildly about. Voters really need to take seriously and spend time on making sure that they actually learn and vote informed. Even then I must express my discontent with a system that by way of how it raises money makes even the best men and women come about like a bull with a ring in its nose. This last fact is because we allow money to come in without it being directly traced to who sent it in.

What we need in all elections is the following rules:
It should be illegal with high penalties for violation to give material assistance to any campaign for which you are not a qualified elector. Bluntly if you don't have the right to vote proved up and certified stay out!
It should should be highly illegal for a political person to receive money from violators of the first rule.
It should be required that all contrabutions must be publically reported within 24 hours of receipt.
It should be required that No Non Voting Entities ever be allowed contribute to elections.
Citizenship having been bought in the USA with massive expenditures of Blood and Treasure, it should be considered the highest duty and of greatest value.

Re:Complain to the Bar (0)

DL117 (2138600) | about a year and a half ago | (#41893463)

Preventing who can't vote(felons, non-citizens, young people under 18) from assisting campaigns is not only a terrible idea, but blatantly unconstitutional. It would be struck down at the drop of a hat.

Re:Complain to the Bar (2)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about a year and a half ago | (#41893389)

Is the Bar hoping that this will keep people from voting in the elections and incumbents will always win, or does the Bar just really like rolling the dice?

Re:Complain to the Bar (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41893489)

The Bar does not allow judge candidates to answer many of the questions you would like answered.

Uh, he never stated any specific (or general) questions. So I'm assuming you're referring instead to the article he references.

"Approximately 80% of the electorate cannot even identify any candidates for judicial office. [1] Thus, the vast majority of these voters base their decision on information from the ballot itself."

So the problem seems to be that most of the population doesn't give a shit about being informed, and they just read the ballot info and check a box.

Your only option is to complain to the Bar in hopes that they will be influenced by your complaint.

Well no, that's not a fucking solution at all. The solution is not to compile a few more sentences on the ballot, it's to get people to pay attention in the first place. Part of the reason most of "that information" isn't allowed on the ballots is because it rarely tells you anything worthwhile. Judges often have to make rulings which are incredibly complex- you can truthfully say "Judge X ruled this way on 12 cases involving abortion" and make it look like the judge is on a bandwagon for one side or the other... in reality he's a fair judge but it'll take six pages to explain why he had to rule how he did. In short, there isn't enough space on the ballot to adequately explain the "why", but there's plenty of space to smear someone without actually lying.

Re:Complain to the Bar (3, Interesting)

DL117 (2138600) | about a year and a half ago | (#41893511)

Um, no. Unless you're question is privileged(asking for confidential information about their clients "Did Joe Smith tell you if he robbed the bank?"), they aren't prohibited from answering it. Also, there is no "the Bar", each state has it's own bar association, and it does not necessarily certify lawyers. In some states this is done by the supreme court.

So, not true.

Personally (0)

Sparticus789 (2625955) | about a year and a half ago | (#41892955)

I am voting for Bender in my judicial elections. He is equally harsh on all humans. Although I do not know if he can be on the DC Board of Elections [slashgear.com] and be a judge.

Re:Personally (2)

jittles (1613415) | about a year and a half ago | (#41893597)

I abstain from voting for anyone or anything I do believe I have a basic understanding of. And if the only person running for a position is the incumbent, then I absolutely refuse to vote. I'd love to have the incumbent look at the paper the next day, see his 50 votes and think "Hmm maybe these people don't really like me at all?" Maybe it will encourage someone to run against them in the next election? It never happens though, people seem to default to filling out the only choice if there is only one choice.

Only interesting for eligible US citizens (-1, Offtopic)

vikingpower (768921) | about a year and a half ago | (#41892957)

This may be a bit too much in the vein of US-centric Slashdotting. Others will disagree, and I may be modded down into oblivion. Yet I keep and will keep saying that Americanocentrism is one of the major negative characteristics of Slashdot, besides all the positive stuff there ( still ) is.

Re:Only interesting for eligible US citizens (3, Insightful)

ewanm89 (1052822) | about a year and a half ago | (#41893025)

Well, in the UK we have police commissioner elections with similar problems at the moment.

Re:Only interesting for eligible US citizens (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | about a year and a half ago | (#41893673)

There is a spattering of information on the candidates at http://www.choosemypcc.org.uk/ [choosemypcc.org.uk] but nothing sent through the mail. My parents, nor anybody else I know for that matter, knows anything about their local candidates. It's an utter sham.

Re:Only interesting for eligible US citizens (1, Interesting)

Phillip Birmingham (2066) | about a year and a half ago | (#41893211)

Don't you kind of expect that there's going to be some of that on a US-based site with a largely US-based membership? Don't be like my countrymen who travel abroad and complain that nobody speaks English.

/. Audience: 28% USA based (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41893909)

Don't you kind of expect that there's going to be some of that on a US-based site with a largely US-based membership?

Alexa.com puts Slashdot audience as 27.6% from USA, closely followed by India at 25.8%. Then are Canada and UK at about 5% each and the last third consists of long tail of countries (Germany, France, Pakistan, Australia...) with less than 3% each. So while USA, making up one fourth of the audience, is the largest single group, the "largerly US-based membership" seems a bit misleading. Are those statistics accurate? I don't know but they're the best ones available to us as /. hasn't commented on this at all, aside from the decade old faq entry.

That all said, I (being from Europe) don't mind US-centric stories: My reasons for reading Slashdot are, to some extent, similar to my reasons for watching the daily show. It offers nice glimpses to the society on that side of the ocean.

Re:/. Audience: 28% USA based (3, Funny)

mooingyak (720677) | about a year and a half ago | (#41894071)

My reasons for reading Slashdot are, to some extent, similar to my reasons for watching the daily show. It offers nice glimpses to the society on that side of the ocean.

In that case, we're batshit crazy, but not in the ways you think we are.

Re:Only interesting for eligible US citizens (2)

NEW22 (137070) | about a year and a half ago | (#41893251)

This may be a bit too much in the vein of Slashdot-centric posting. Others will agree, and I may be modded up into the stratosphere. Yet I keep and will keep saying that predicting your own possible mod-point oppression is one of the major negative characteristics of Slashdot posters, besides all the positive stuff there ( still ) is.

Re:Only interesting for eligible US citizens (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41893281)

Get over yourself.

Re:Only interesting for eligible US citizens (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41893311)

Yeah, God forbid a site hosted by Americans, run by Americans, and mostly read by Americans ever have anything pertaining specifically to America.

Re:Only interesting for eligible US citizens (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41893363)

Then why in the hell did you read and comment on this?
Stop reading that which you don't want to read. Don't participate in discussions you're not interested in. You knew what this was about from the headline - why did you go any further?
The Americanocentrism in this article is miniscule compared to the egocentrism of your post.

Re:Only interesting for eligible US citizens (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about a year and a half ago | (#41893551)

This may be a bit too much in the vein of US-centric Slashdotting. Others will disagree, and I may be modded down into oblivion. Yet I keep and will keep saying that Americanocentrism is one of the major negative characteristics of Slashdot, besides all the positive stuff there ( still ) is.

Try The Firehose [slashdot.org] .

And as they say on election day here in the US: "If you don't vote (for articles of interest to you) you can't complain!" Actually, I put that parenthetical part in there myself. But really, go vote up the stuff that sounds interesting. There's a story about Skype and a Dutch teen. A BBC story about a guy resurecting Elite, something about the Portuguese government and cloud services, Welsh fiber optic researchers, another depressing story about Nokia . . . If you don't find something you like, contribute a story. Don't count on me to guess what you and other readers outside the US find relevant, help out. Maybe we'd like something other than election coverage in the US, too.

Re:Only interesting for eligible US citizens (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41894295)

Did you submit a question when your country was having an election?

Judges should be apolitical (5, Insightful)

bitslinger_42 (598584) | about a year and a half ago | (#41892959)

If you're in a state where the vote isn't "choose between Person X and Person Y to be a judge", chances are the vote is to retain an existing judge for another term. My philosophy has been that, unless I become aware of gross misconduct (i.e. bribery, criminal prosecution, failure to recuse self when obviously interested in the case, etc.), I vote to retain

The rationale is that the judiciary is supposed to be apolitical. If they have to go through campaigning, the way other candidates do, they become subject to campaign contributions and all the evils those entail. Leave them where they are unless they've done something obviously wrong.

Re:Judges should be apolitical (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41893067)

And yet in some states, their party affiliation is listed under their name on the ballot.

Re:Judges should be apolitical (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | about a year and a half ago | (#41893117)

unless I become aware of gross misconduct (...), I vote to retain

In which case the judge should have already been disbarred and you shouldn't be able to vote for retaining at all.

Why aren't judges selected by the bar associations based on experience and past performance (decissions overturned in a higher court, procedural mistakes, etc.)?

Re:Judges should be apolitical (3, Insightful)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | about a year and a half ago | (#41893527)

Why aren't judges selected by the bar associations based on the political interests of the bar association?

That is what you are really asking and with that correction to your question, I think it answers itself. The question I want to ask you is, what makes you think the bar association is an unbiased, politically disinterested organization?

Re:Judges should be apolitical (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41893193)

My take on this is that being a judge should be a temporary appointment for a lawyer - someone with a law practice should be able to spend a year or two being a judge and then return to their law practice. Having a judicial career often gives someone way too much power in terms of both being able to decide people's fates as well as having to do reciprocal favors for others.

So the philosophy is to vote to not retain all judges, period. I don't care what their record is, it should be a temporary appointment.

Re:Judges should be apolitical (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41893357)

I tend to vote not to retain, under the assumption that other ignorant voters will vote to retain. The idea is that if we ignoramuses cancel each other out people who know real info on these judges (e.g. lawyers) will have the deciding vote.

Re:Judges should be apolitical (3, Interesting)

TWX (665546) | about a year and a half ago | (#41893359)

Consider the following:

Who nominated them- If you don't like who nominated them, that should influence retention. That should be part of public record.

If they've had any particularly controversial rulings or decisions- letting someone out on bail over strong objections, and that someone doing something bad while bailed, or seemingly denying visitation or joint custody in family law for no good reason, that sort of thing. If you know any lawyers, sometimes they'll have something to chip in too.

Who would appoint judges to fill the vacancy they leave- the elected official, likely the governor, will appoint to fill vacancies. If you do not like the politics of that governor or the expected successor governor, you might want to leave the devil-you-know in office, rather than the devil you don't know, especially depending on the politics of the governor that originally appointed the judge.


Unfortunately, you pretty much need an absentee or mail-in ballot to be able to do this. I spent about three hours going through all of the ballot initiatives, school district bonds, city bonds, judges, and other contests to determine how to vote, doing research about who supported various measures, who opposed, and what they'd said about them. I had to use my computer to do the research. Voting in-person on election day would have been impossible with this number of choices.

I strongly encourage everyone to get on the absentee-ballot list. It makes life a lot easier.

Re:Judges should be apolitical (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41893615)

I always receive a sample ballot in the mail, it also includes candidate statements (short paragraph, including judges who are on the ballot), maybe they don't do that where you live. Back when I was in school (different state) they didn't mail them to me, but you could pick them up at city hall or the public library.

Re:Judges should be apolitical (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41893749)

Unfortunately, you pretty much need an absentee or mail-in ballot to be able to do this.

The other solution is for the state to mail out sample ballots (like Maryland did when I lived there). Then you can do the research before you vote, and take with you whatever materials you want when you go vote. Unfortunately some states don't even trivially have sample ballots available online.

Re:Judges should be apolitical (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41894025)

The rationale is that the judiciary is supposed to be apolitical.

Cool, so how do you find out about the political ones, so that you can vote them out?

My opinion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41892963)

I think it's best to not vote on items you don't know about. If a particular judge has enough of a sketchy record that it comes to your attention, then it's fair to vote them out. We should all really be paying more attention to our officials, but I understand that it's difficult.

The Grapevine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41892969)

You won't find much public information out there for most judges. They typically have to delete or make private things like LinkedIn when becoming a judge and are very careful with their public comments. Your best bet is through the local grapevine, or failing that the endorsements of the local bar association.

Local Newspaper (1)

Mitt Romney (2766023) | about a year and a half ago | (#41892983)

Go lo-tech and read the paper or your mail (not email). Otherwise, you can probably just call and talk to them. At my last local election, the candidates for the board of supervisors were at the polling station ready to talk to people. That's a welcome difference from the national elections where we're basically nameless sheep to all the candidates.

What has surprised me is the elections for the county school board. Most of the board runs uncontested every time. If you have kids or own property, they have a lot more to do with your life than whatever republicrat makes it into the white house.

Re:Local Newspaper (1)

scruffy (29773) | about a year and a half ago | (#41893555)

The local paper will typically have recommendations of how to vote for as well. It's not ideal, but you might trust them enough to weed out the crazies.

Why are we not disscussion the Ohio 'software'?? (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41893001)

I see firehose has stories on the Ohio voting Software installed 4 days before the election, but I notice those stories keep getting voted down. Or flagged with misleading comments.

Why is the installation of uncertified software on county tabulators in Ohio 4 days before an election not big news?? I have a lot to say /rant on the subject!

Ohio had provable voter fraud in the Republican Primaries:
http://www.themoneyparty.org/main/2012/10/rigged-elections-for-romney/

That was detected in August. The contract for this system (called EXP) was signed in September. The software installed 4 days before an election.
It is claimed as *test* software, but will be installed on *live* machines used in the election.
It has not been certified. EXP was not discussed at June meeting of voting machine examiners, it is new software:

http://www.sos.state.oh.us/SOS/mediaCenter/2012/2012-06-11.aspx

These are the same tabulators that showed the detected signs of voter fraud.

http://www.themoneyparty.org/main/stolen-election-2004-plus-the-voter-fraud-scam-series/wisconsin-no-tabulator-versus-tabulator-counties/

The man in charge of the Ohio elections, Republican Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, also introduced some last minute vote suppression directives. This one makes provision ballots invalid if you haven't filled in an extra form correctly. But Ohio law makes the *polling*staff* the one to fill in that form not you.

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/11/ohios-provisional-ballot-order-the-biggest-legal-story-of-the-weekend/264498/

Jon Husted had previously set shorter early voting limits, that was blocked by the courts and so he defied the court:

http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-861538

He fired two Election officials who complied with the court order, and ultimately set short days on the weekend as partial compliance, so Sunday it's open 1pm to 5pm.

http://livewire.talkingpointsmemo.com/entry/judge-jon-husted-can-fire-ohio-elections-officials

Early voters show a strong bias to Obama (57% to 38%) which is why he's so keen to block them from voting.

http://www.surveyusa.com/client/PollReport.aspx?g=9fe706c7-86ef-4698-b0d3-15ec2d79d203

Bad software, bad actor, proved fraud in the Primaries, a bunch of last minute rule changes with a political bias. Why are we not discussing this?

Re:Why are we not disscussion the Ohio 'software'? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41893195)

Early voters are voting for Obama because everyone who actually has a job will be voting for Romney.

So no dispute of any facts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41893345)

So to sum up your comment, you don't dispute a single thing about what I've said.

Not the detected vote flipping fraud in the Primaries.
Not the new uncertified software, EXP installed on Ohio voting machines just before the election.
Not that the software was never discussed at the previous June meeting, it is new.
Not the odd timing, how the vote flipping was detected in August and the software ordered in September.
Not the political partisan nature of the man who ordered it.
Not the bias, early voters have to Obama.
Not the last minute rule change, or the attempt to limit early voting, or the sacking of election officials for complying with the court order.

Not a single thing about what I said, you dispute.

Re:So no dispute of any facts (1)

Sparticus789 (2625955) | about a year and a half ago | (#41893503)

It's actually very easy to dispute everything you have said.

The Software you talk about being installed in Ohio has been approved by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. [eac.gov] No problems detected with the software AT ALL. Since everything else you are talking about is loose conspiracy theories, the rest of your rant is invalid.

I could make the same complaint about Maryland, where the state legislature gerrymandered the congressional districts and put up a misleading ballot measure to approve the new districts. It's politics, that's what they do. Mislead the ignorant masses to retain control.

False, EXP is not Dominion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41893775)

No this is NOT the dominion system, it's extra software commissioned in September by

http://bradblog.com/Docs/Ohio_ESS_Contract_091812.pdf

The claim is that it doesn't need to be certified because its test software. See page 14 onwards, they say it's "high level enhancements to ES&S election reporting software that goes beyond the current functionality".

Read section 1.2 of that contract (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41893975)

"1.2 EXP was written to US Election commission 2002 voting standard... but has not been submitted to a voting system test laboratory to date. Because customer is requiring only functional testing of EXP, EXP will not require federal or state certification for Customer Acceptance testing or for use in any election in Ohio."

The contract claim it doesn't need certification. This is not true:
http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/3506.05

"(B) No voting machine, marking device, automatic tabulating equipment, or software for the purpose of casting or tabulating votes or for communications among systems involved in the tabulation, storage, or casting of votes shall be purchased, leased, put in use, or continued to be used, except for experimental use as provided in division (B) of section 3506.04 of the Revised Code, unless it, a manual of procedures governing its use, and training materials, service, and other support arrangements have been certified by the secretary of state and unless the board of elections of each county where the equipment will be used has assured that a demonstration of the use of the equipment has been made available to all interested electors. The secretary of state shall appoint a board of voting machine examiners to examine and approve equipment and its related manuals and support arrangements."

Ohio's claim is that it isn't for 'voting machines, marking devices, automatic tabulating or software to cast tabulate or communicate" hence it doesn't need to be certified.

However it is being installed on the tabulators. It necessarily has access to the voting results. The claim that its only installed on the supervisors PC is false, it is on election equipment, and it IS uncertified, it IS installed a few days before an election and WAS commissioned just after voter fraud was detected in their primary results.

Re:Why are we not disscussion the Ohio 'software'? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41893415)

People who actually have a job are more likely to vote Tuesday then weekend?

Re:Why are we not disscussion the Ohio 'software'? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41893679)

Early voters have jobs too, we have to vote early because we don't have 6 hours to stand in line on a Tuesday, we have to be at work instead.

Re:Why are we not disscussion the Ohio 'software'? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41894209)

Early voters are voting for Obama because everyone who actually has a job will be voting for Romney.

There was early voting on the weekends too, anyone with a job (such as I) was free to do so then.

Re:Why are we not disscussion the Ohio 'software'? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41893553)

You're a moron. I live in Ohio, there were machines voting Obama when people selected Romney, it made local news...did it make national? nope. Why? You guess.

Anyhow, early voters are the ones bussed, hustled, paid to vote early. Again, I watched it in Cleveland....even high-school students were bussed in to vote...I'm sure they're soooo informed like you...skull full of mush.

Isn't this a silly way to do it? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41893003)

Today we hear news stories of people coming to the polls and spending an hour reading constitutional amendments, trying to figure out how they're going to vote on them. In other words, they are deciding the fate of their state's constitution without any forethought.

This is commonplace, because in this so-called representative democracy [metagovernment.org] , we are disenfranchised all of the time except for one moment every few years.

How much longer until more people start working on the system [metagovernment.org] that will enable us all to always participate in the decisions that affect our lives?

Re:Isn't this a silly way to do it? (1)

u38cg (607297) | about a year and a half ago | (#41893991)

Presumably once we finally forget what a mess Athenian democracy was.

State bar association review (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41893031)

In my state (Nebraska), the state bar association publishes a biennial review of justices by lawyers in the state, including responses to the question "Should this judge be retained in office?" Since these are responses from attorneys actually practicing in the the courts of these judges, I believe they are in the best position to offer an opinion as to the judge's competence and fairness, the two criteria I think are most essential in a judge.

Check out your State Bar. (2)

Revotron (1115029) | about a year and a half ago | (#41893033)

You're not in an information vacuum - the information is there, it's just buried.

I can't speak for every state, but here in Missouri, the Missouri Bar association runs a website which publishes recommendations from a Bar association committee based on individual performance evaluations provided by lawyers, and also reports on the technical quality of opinions written by the judge in question. They summarize their findings very nicely, provide a "Retain/Dismiss" recommendation, and cite sources for all of their claims and opinions.

I'd recommend browsing your state's bar association website to see if they offer a similar service.

Re:Check out your State Bar. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41893767)

Iowa does a similar thing. I think they call it the plebiscite. It tends to pick up problems long before. There is only one judges in Iowa I am going to vote "no" on. She is definitely not up to snuff due to many problems.

Re:Check out your State Bar. (2)

ColoradoAuthor (682295) | about a year and a half ago | (#41893893)

That information has proven quite helpful in my home states (CO and NE).

Usually I'll vote against a judge if more than about 15% of attorneys recommend "Do Not Retain" (or 10%, if the the judge gets poor marks for impartiality). For borderline cases, first I'll look for mentions of the judge in news stories. If I'm still undecided, I'll vote against retention. Why? The vast majority of people vote to retain all of the judges, so even really bad judges stay in office. By voting against retention, I will amplify the votes of any voters who happen to know about a problem with the judge.

Check out your favorite political party (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41893945)

Your preferred political party's web site probably offers their opinion on the judges. If you have no preferred political party, check your favorite site for atheists. :-)

Let libel be your guide (2)

Latent Heat (558884) | about a year and a half ago | (#41893039)

Cook County, Illinois, has long had a reputation for uncontested elections "down ballot", "machine" politics, and all the rest. Oh yes, and elected judges. If political officials appoint the judges, at least you know what you are getting -- vote for Party Mayor A, get judges appointed along with Mayor A's platform, and so on.

Attending Northwestern University in Evanston, I came across a "voters guide" to the judges stuck to a lamp post. I wish I had copied it down or photographed it, it was a complete classic exercise in an unabridged and uncensored rundown of who these people are. One remark sticks in my mind nearly 40 years later, that a Cook County judge had the nickname "Fathead McGillicuddy." The colorful nature of the remarks only got better from there.

Would that we could get the rumors and the slanders and the inuendo and the things known to the poor defense attorneys (and defendants). One can always run such "through a filter" to sort out genuine dirt from campaign hyberbole, much as we process the negative ads the major office seekers run against each other. But at least it would be something to go on.

Vote them all out (0, Flamebait)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#41893043)

Any judge in office today is enforcing bad law. This means they are bad people. Throw them all out.

Re:Vote them all out (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | about a year and a half ago | (#41893571)

How do you know that judges aren't doing useful things like throwing out bad evidence and bad cases? How do you know that the incumbent isn't leading the charge against bad laws?

The "throw them all out" idea is incorrect because it fails to reward good public officials, thus providing no incentive for a public official to do the job well.

Re:Vote them all out (1)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#41894097)

A judges job is to enforce the law. If he's not enforcing the law as written, he's a bad judge. If he's enforcing bad law as written, he's a bad person.

Judges Run by Party (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41893049)

Here judges run with public political affiliations. I vote for the Democratic judge, else (if one isn't available) the Libertarian judge, with the hope that they'll be more willing to look at reform over confinement, and try to be more lenient where possible in marijuana possession cases.

Republican judges only want to put as many people in prison as possible, since that's what it means to (*beats chest*) be Tough On Crime, which is all they advertise about. I don't consider that unbiased.

What are they tough on. (2)

characterZer0 (138196) | about a year and a half ago | (#41893083)

I do not vote for judges who claim to be "tough on drugs/drug offenders" or judges who advertise their high conviction rate. (Which is pretty much all of them.) I want correct interpretation of the law and presumption of innocence, not jails full of non-violent offenders. The last one I remember voting for advertised that she (as a private lawyer) had success getting bad laws knocked down and going after corrupt politicians. She lost.

Change the Selection Process (1)

Stormy Dragon (800799) | about a year and a half ago | (#41893091)

They can work to change the judicial selection process. The purpose of the courts is essentially anti-democratic: cases are supposed to be decided based on the law, not on which outcome will be most popular with the general public. It's a bad idea then to have judges constantly having to run for elections as this creates an incentive to bias their rulings against unpopular parties and for popular ones.

My voting strategy (0)

VAXcat (674775) | about a year and a half ago | (#41893095)

I'm, a Libertarian, so I vote that party where possible. If there's no Libertarian candidate in a race, I vote republican, since Republicans are (very narrowly) more Libertarian than Democrats. But, when it comes to judges, if there's no Libertarian, I pick the Democrat, since on the whole, Democrats will be more reasonable in drug cases than republicans. For what it's worth....

Re:My voting strategy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41893231)

Yes, a lot of Libertarians really are single-issue voters.
This is why we can't have nice things.

Re:My voting strategy (1)

medv4380 (1604309) | about a year and a half ago | (#41893757)

You do know that most states don't do partisan elections for judges so their is no Republican, Libertarian, or Democrat Judge to vote for. Just an Independent or two. Most are merit selection or non-partisan selection. Your "method" doesn't work for most state judicial elections.

Re:My voting strategy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41894163)

With the extremely authoritarian, completely delusional social conservatives calling the shots in the Republican party, I'd think a Democrat would almost always be the better choice for a Libertarian voter.

Judicial elections (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41893099)

My friend (and attorney) and I are Republican and Democrat, respectively. However, as much as we love to argue politics, we have a lot of respect for each other personally. I find that he is ethical, honest (this is supposed to be an oxymoron - the "honest" lawyer.. if irritating at times - as I'm sure he finds me as well - what are friends for, after all), and willing to admit when a Republican candidate is unsuited for the job they are running for. When he recommended a particular candidate for the Illinois Supreme Court as someone who is beholden to no one, is an honest/ethical judge, I paid attention. Unfortunately, this was after I had already voted (early), or I would have probably voted for this person.

So, determining which judicial candidate is suitable for the position may be a process fraught with difficulties. I don't think there is a simple answer to this question, but I think you can find information on how they have ruled in relevant cases to determine if they are beholden to vested interests or not. This isn't simple, but perhaps possible. And having an attorney whom you trust to ask about a specific judge can be useful! :-)

There's info out there (2)

dkleinsc (563838) | about a year and a half ago | (#41893115)

Things to check:
- Your local bar associations often provide ratings of who they think is good.
- Your local papers will probably have endorsements and explain why.
- Any organizations you support may have voting guides.
- Of course, if you've had any dealings with the court system in question, you can use your own experience to decide on incumbents at least. For example, I could intelligently vote on 1 of the judges running this year because I'd been in her courtroom as a juror.

Re:There's info out there (2)

vlm (69642) | about a year and a half ago | (#41893509)

Your local papers will probably have endorsements and explain why.

Finally a /. post with the correct answer. If the police chief endorses a judge in a newspaper story I won't vote for that judge, don't want a cooperative relationship between judicial and executive. They're supposed to be checks and balances on each other, not gang up together against the population (us).

Also loudmouthed local political party hacks can't keep their mouths shut about who they like. Formal endorsements, informal suggestions, sample ballots. So vote based on that if you're a party member, or vote against the goals of one of the parties, etc.

So much of the time people run opposed that it usually doesn't matter anyway. If there's only one candidate for assistant vice treasurer of the dog pound, well, I guess she's gonna win. This happens a lot with the local school board, who apparently aren't stupid enough to get an uprising resulting in them getting kicked out. Also local aldermen, our doesn't do much which is exactly what we all want, so he runs unopposed every time since the late 90s.

Smart Voter (3, Informative)

Trevin (570491) | about a year and a half ago | (#41893131)

I go to http://www.smartvoter.org/ [smartvoter.org] for almost all of my candidate research. You can't see a judge's prior rulings from there, but at least some of them post their priorities. If a candidate doesn't submit a profile to their database, I usually ignore them come election day.

Vote against the incumbent (4, Insightful)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | about a year and a half ago | (#41893133)

I don't like anybody holding power for too long, and typically when a judge gets elected it's a position for life. Most attorneys are reluctant to run against a sitting judge, so many times they don't even have an opponent. So when they do have an opponent, I usually vote against the one with "Judge" in front of their name.

Vote Against Them All (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41893171)

Can't go too wrong using that approach.

Vested interest. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41893197)

Pick people have a vested interest that you care about and works with the judicial system on a regular basis and ask their opinion about the judges.

For instance, I live in Hennepin County, Minnesota, USA. I have a few friends who are in law enforcement and one who is on the drug task force. They have issues with some judges being extremely lenient on drug offenders. I also have a friend who is a lawyer, mainly civil cases. So I usually know a list of judges who they feel are reasonable, and I'll vote for them. Otherwise I vote against the incumbent.

I'm watching ads. (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year and a half ago | (#41893223)

I'm just watching ads. You think the bar is going to tell you Judge Johnson uses tax dollars to fund parties for baby rapists he odered early released?

No Contest (2)

rossdee (243626) | about a year and a half ago | (#41893235)

In the ballot I just voted on, all or nearly all of them were running unopposed.
But there was a space fore a write in

This is the first US election I have voted in - I only became a citizen in 2009

And in the last week we have had phone calls asking us to vote for "One Man One Woman"
which was a good song, but I don't think it was Abba's best

Re:No Contest (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41893373)

Congrats on your citizenship, I recommend voting every year, not just during presidential elections.

Yes, the all the marriage amendments are amusing, so many choices why should anyone try to put a definition on love
1 man, 1 woman
1 man/woman, 1 man/woman
1 man/woman, 1 goat/dog/donkey/sheep
y men, x women (y,x >=0)
1 football coach, 1 little kid
Bill, Monica and a cigar

Local Bar Association (3, Interesting)

Insightfill (554828) | about a year and a half ago | (#41893269)

Certainly not a disinterested source, but the local bar association usually has a list of the judges and recommendations FOR or AGAINST many of them. I just saw the one from the Chicago Bar Association, and most of the votes were "Yes" (retain) with a few exception.

Since the bar represents the attorneys who deal with the judges on a regular basis, I figure they likely have the most experience with judges. You can usually do a quick Google on their "no" suggestions and find plenty of juicy stories (sleeping, shouting, capricious rulings, etc.)

Generally: in the absence of information on a topic, leave it blank.

Re:Local Bar Association (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41893335)

In New Mexico, the state Supreme Court puts out a packet each election, like this one from Chicago. They mostly recommend retention, except for a few folks that are raving lunatics, drunks, or otherwise not good.

Ask a lawyer (3, Informative)

soapee01 (698313) | about a year and a half ago | (#41893291)

I asked my friend who's a general practice lawyer. He does defense work, family law etc. They tend to know all of the people running personally and are most interested in a fair and impartial judge regardless of party. Other than that I couldn't find any information online or in newspapers. The media doesn't seem to care about district/municipal judges which is incorrigible since they influence the general public more directly than any other elected official.

Re:Ask a lawyer (2)

DL117 (2138600) | about a year and a half ago | (#41893485)

This. Lawyers are the ones who interact with judges, and who understand these issues, Ask a lawyer or look on a bar associations website.

For Arizonans, try http://www.azjudges.info/ (3, Informative)

bjdevil66 (583941) | about a year and a half ago | (#41893297)

I came across this site while doing research as well.

From the site [azjudges.info] :

The Arizona Commission on Judicial Performance Review sets performance standards for the judges appointed through the merit selection process, decides whether or not a judge meets those standards, and reports its findings to you, the voters when a judge is up for retention.

The Commission collects information on how judges perform by distributing written surveys and holding public hearings for people who have first-hand knowledge of the job performance of judges appearing on the 2012 general election ballot. More than 57,000 surveys on Arizona judges were distributed in 2011. The Commission also accepts written comments at any time about the performance of judges.

The survey responses are compiled by an independent data center and the results are given to the Commission. Its members review all the information on each judge and vote whether the judge MEETS or DOES NOT MEET judicial performance standards. When the Commission votes, the judges' names are encoded so that members do not know which judge they are voting on until all the votes are counted.

It came in pretty handy. Perhaps other states have similar web sites?

Judges aren't supposed to take political sides (1)

medv4380 (1604309) | about a year and a half ago | (#41893323)

Where I am our Judicial voting is based on whether to retain the Judge or not. It makes it simpler. If I see a political ad about a judge or know any information about the judge then I vote to fire them. If I know next to nothing about them then they must be doing their job right. We've only had one time in 30 years where we actually had two candidates on the ballet at the same time and that was because the predecessor purposefully timed his retirement to coincide with the election.

Just Vote Against Incumbants (1)

silvergeek (2768657) | about a year and a half ago | (#41893343)

Judges are usually [amoral] elite attorneys whose decisions get worse with time. In general, justice has a better chance of being served by voting against incumbants.

Re:Just Vote Against Incumbants (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about a year and a half ago | (#41893817)

Indiana has these "retention" ballot measures.

I don't do research. I vote "no" as a matter of course. Of course it does no good, but if people would actually vote no more often I think the churn would do the court system some good.

You need to care more than every four years. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41893353)

If you want to make an informed decision concerning judicial candidates there is regrettably only one thing you can do: dedicate a painful amount of time to seeing how they act in court first hand. Looking at rulings and public records does almost nothing to break down what goes on in the court on a day to day basis or communicate the prejudices and attitude of the judicial candidates. If you want to know who you should vote for you have to see them in action. This isn't really an option for most people, but luckily many communities have a dedicated group of volunteers who regularly attend court for no other purpose than providing information to the public concerning not only the activities of the judge but of the court in general.

When I first became a court stenographer I noticed that the same few people seemed to be in the gallery every day. I eventually found out that they were volunteers from a local judicial monitoring group that tried to keep the public apprised of what went on in their courts. Over a decade later I happened to recognize one of the ladies at my churches sewing circle. I found out that they, (mostly retirees with some connection to the legal system; wives and parents of law enforcement or even former DA's and attorneys) try to have someone at every public hearing, but that for the most part people don't seem to care what goes on in their courts. She told me that while it's hard to find someone to attend it's even harder to get the public interested in what is going on.

Look at the local newspaper, many publish information that will help you find such a group. You might find an advertisement seeking "court watchers" as they call themselves or even a quarterly report they pay to publish. Contact anyone you know who has an affiliation with the local court system and they will likely be able to tell you directly, or point you to someone who can, if their is such a group in your area. Too often people only think of their courts when they're in them, I for one am glad your interested.

Legal Newspapers & Websites (1)

buddhaunderthetree (318870) | about a year and a half ago | (#41893413)

Many jurisdictions have a legal newsletter or website for attorneys. They often provide excellent coverage of judicial races.

WAG (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41893437)

With no real information available, much less some empty campaign sound bites, take a standard Wild Ass Guess based on party affiliation. Assume that they tend toward the party platform and that on controversial issues they will be closer to their party's position than the other party's. Of course most judges won't be dealing with controversial issues but existing judges tend to be the ones that get tapped for positions such as supreme courts (state or federal) so you're still feeding the minor leagues with prospects for the majors.

Given that and the current Republican intent to make more massive intrusions into the privacy of my (and your) home, in today's election I voted for every non-republican on my judicial ballot with a couple of exceptions - do you want an unknown Democrat or an unknown Libertarian? That would be an easy choice except that some 'Libertarian' candidates are really ultra-conservative republicans that lost their party's primary. In those three cases today, I had to make a mental coin toss. Caveat emptor, YMMV, etc.

Oregon one incumbent canidate law (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41893505)

Oregon has a fun law passed during WW-I when most voters(men only) were unavailable requiring all lawyers running for office to be members of the state bar association. The state bar association by its rules will disbar anyone running against a sitting judge in Oregonthem disqualifying. That is why unless there is a vacated seat you never get more than one choice in Oregon. In Soviet Oregon Judges vote for who you can vote for.

Endorsements (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41893583)

Most of our judges have web pages which list endorsements. On e will usually have endorsements from fellow judges and the other will have a lot of endorsements from unions such as the AFL-CIO and Fraternal Order of Police and such. I just vote for the one without the union endorsements.

Judges don't make policy (3)

SirGarlon (845873) | about a year and a half ago | (#41893607)

A friend of mine is a small-town judge. He's elected, but it's a part-time job (10 hours per week I think). He's judge in the town where he lives and works as an attorney in a neighboring town.

In his small town, my friend got elected because the town councilmen asked him to run. They'd worked with him in his day job (where he was representing a company trying to get permits in the town and whatnot) and thought he was a good guy. This is how things get done on a local level: the local officials say "we need a new judge" (or registrar of deeds or whatnot) and pick someone they think is level-headed and responsible.

What I'm trying to say is that unless you are plugged into local politics, it probably does not make much difference to you whether your new judge is someone the Republicans think is a good guy, or someone the Democrats think is a good guy. You'll get a good guy either way -- unless of course all the members of one party are a bunch of jerks, in which case you don't trust their judgment and want the other guy.

At the local level, some of these positions are just a popularity contest. I usually abstain because I have never lived in one place long enough to know who's who.

Judges *do* make policy (3)

dkleinsc (563838) | about a year and a half ago | (#41893871)

Not as much as, say, a legislator or mayor, but judges definitely are part of the political process. For example, right now, judges in the Bronx are heavily involved in the stop-and-frisk policy debate, mostly because they've been throwing out bogus "trespassing" charges caused by the police randomly harassing people in the hallways of public housing projects.

Good judges see their role as the umpire calling balls and strikes, but like umpires the size of the strike zone varies a bit: Some are more friendly to prosecutors / plaintiffs, some more friendly to defendants. Some are more concerned about taking the time to ensure fairness, some are more concerned with not wasting the court's valuable time with trivialities. Some will be faced with completely unprecedented sets of facts where there isn't good guidance from the legislature or legal precedent, and under those circumstances only have their own opinions and sense of fairness to draw on. Some will be more strict about when they should recuse themselves than others.

Using personal experience... (1)

bobodeparis (2734481) | about a year and a half ago | (#41893661)

For myself, I have found that the incumbent judges are marked on my ballot as incumbents. I have yet to stand in a court, in front of a judge I thought was worth his weight in attitude. So, I vote for new judges, at all levels. When the system changes, so will my vote.

State Supreme Court (3, Informative)

zerosomething (1353609) | about a year and a half ago | (#41893761)

At least for your states Supreme Court you can lookup their written decisions. Sometimes Wikipedia has a listing of individual judges and their decisions for your state. Pick an issue you know when to the state court and lookup the decision. Each state should have these decisions online in some form. Try searching for keywords like Abortion, Marijuana, Alcohol (Wine shipments to your state and microbrew issues). In Indiana we are trying to vote out "Steven H. David" for his decision stating "We hold that there is no right to reasonably resist unlawful entry by police officers." http://www.in.gov/judiciary/opinions/pdf/05121101shd.pdf [in.gov]

My take (1)

detritus. (46421) | about a year and a half ago | (#41893787)

The best way is to look at their rulings and try to understand their rationale. I find that especially for Appellate court races, it helps to examine prior cases, especially ones that are important to you. Do they stray from prior precedent? Do they seem to wildly interpret or misconstrue the intent of a statute that is activist in nature, i.e. an "ends justify the means" philosophy or are they strict "rule of law" justices that are completely impartial? If they have no prior experience as a judge, look at their endorsements and their character. The bench should never be used for activism, especially if you personally disagree with the outcome. It is always the responsibility of the legislature to craft good statutory language that can stand on its own in compliance with constitutional law and precedent. Once I became educated in law, I actually prefer conservative rule-of-law judges because it enforces the idea that we need to hold our politicians accountable rather than rely on a court to "make the problem go away" on bad foundation.

Tow the party line (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41894041)

I just Google around and find out which party endorses them then go with my party.

Good luck (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41894085)

There really shouldn't be any evaluation of judges other than whether they apply the law impartially. Many people can't resist voting for or against judges who make decisions they disagree with, not understanding that a judge's job is to interpret the law and apply it whether they agree with the law or not.

Ask Lawyers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41894319)

I'm in a slightly different position, being a Free State Project early mover. ALL of us on the ground moved here to be politically active, and we have a pretty extensive network to share information on these things.

It helps GREATLY that several of us are lawyers and have direct experience with many of the judges and judicial candidates. Since it's not easy to start your own political migration, and you may not have the kind of intentional network that we do, my advice would be "If you have any friend or friends-of-friends who are practicing lawyers, ask them."

Write in (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41894465)

If not enough information is presented, I'll write in a friends name as a protest vote.

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