Choosing judges should be the people’s judgment

Voting is exceedingly boring.

When I go to the polls for the primary and general elections every year, the experience always seems to fall short in some way. It’s not the poll workers, who are always exceedingly friendly. It’s also not the computer system, which never really confused me in the first place. In fact, the computer systems are an incentive for me to vote – it’s not every day you get to fool around with a touch screen.

In any case, voting remains a civic duty the same as jury duty: not very fun and deeply unpopular, but people really ought to do it.

Even though I am a habitual voter, I can understand why people don’t vote. It seems that everyone running for office is dishonest, generally driven by special-interest groups and greed. There’s no guarantee that any candidate will keep his campaign promises.

In addition, the nature of representative democracy demands that people vote for candidates they don’t necessarily agree with.

With only 2 major political parties, it’s highly unlikely that any American will find a candidate who thoroughly represents their views – and that assumes Americans even know what the candidates’ views are.

I’m not besmirching Americans for their lack of knowledge, however. I don’t know how specific candidates feel about everything, either.

In fact, I spent 75 percent of my time at the poll yesterday voting for people I’d never heard of. Namely, judges. Judges are notoriously hard to vote for because they are supposed to be impartial, objective interpreters of the law.

Ever wondered why the Supreme Court Justices never clap for anything the president says during the State of the Union address? Now you know.

That impartiality may be changing. In a guest column for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Ann Woolner quotes Drayton Nabers, the incumbent candidate for the chief justice spot on the Alabama Supreme Court, as saying, “I’m pro-life … I believe in traditional marriage, and I will always support it,” in a television advertisement for his own campaign.

Until 2002, when the Supreme Court overturned a ban on judges speaking out on political issues due to free-speech concerns, such partisanship on the part of judges was unheard of.

As Woolner said, “Litigants shouldn’t have to face judges elected on promises to rule against them.”

Woolner is right. However, that is where my agreement with her stops.

Woolner then quotes James Sample, associate counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, as saying the advertisements and the elections themselves have “created the sort of perfect storm that is really threatening to turn the courts into quasi-legislatures.”

Woolner is essentially saying that electing judges is a bad idea.

I don’t buy it for a minute. Judges were never impartial or objective in the first place. They are intelligent, concerned individuals who know their acts have ramifications, but they are still human. Of course they have opinions of their own. The ban that was lifted in 2002 merely dispelled the illusion that judges – or anyone else – can ever really live up to an idea of objectivity.

Now that the ban is gone, there are some who claim judges are opinionated in order to get elected, therefore judges should instead be appointed. The appointment of judges is a regular practice … of dictators of totalitarian regimes, that is. Is this the system Americans wish to emulate?

I would prefer Americans choose their judges, even if those judges are making their political predispositions known. After all, these predispositions exist regardless of whether judges are allowed to communicate them.

Real objectivity is impossible, regardless of how loyal judges are to the ideal of impartial law. They are, after all, only human.

Jordan Capobianco is a senior majoring in English literature and is the Oracle’s opinion editor.