December 4, 2020 - 9:00 pm
Growing up in the Phoenix area, I never saw a sign advertising a judge seeking a vote. Judges are appointed in Maricopa County. Yet voters still have a say in who sits on the bench. Poor judges may be removed by the electorate in regular retention elections.
Nevada has chosen a different path. Judges run for election like any politician. Yet judges are not, and should not be, politicians. They should not need to take time from hearing cases to raise money from those who will appear before them. Their opponents should not need to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in an attempt to unseat them. The process is, at best, unseemly.
Most voters know very little, other than faces on a sign, about judicial candidates. Most lawyers do not either, I being one of them. It is often only when judges appear in the news, for the wrong reasons, that people come to know them. Voter choice is an illusion when gaining meaningful knowledge about a candidate is extremely difficult and rarely done. In an appoint-and-retain system, judges may still be removed. All judges are excused from the duty to campaign.
Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson has gotten it right. Allow judges to be appointed based on experience and ability (Tuesday Review-Journal). Require judges to regularly face voters for retention or removal. Voters have their say and judges can focus on judging.