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Taking politics out of judicial selection? Sure

To the editor:

After reading the Wednesday article on retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s support for appointing rather than electing judges, I feel compelled to give another side of the story.

I grew up in Arizona, where my mother, Dorothy M. Carson, was a Superior (District) Court judge and served in Phoenix on the same bench at the same time as Justice O’Connor, and knew her well. I preface my remarks with this, because the appointment of judges was a hot topic in Phoenix in the 1970s and ’80s. It was especially hot for my mother, because she was targeted by some attorneys who did not like some of her rulings.

The appointment “experiment” started harmlessly enough — attorneys in Phoenix were sent questionnaires rating the performance of each judge. The Arizona State Bar would then tally all of the results and send them to the local newspaper, which promptly reported them as factual. Voters would then have the marvelous opportunity to choose to keep or dump a judge if he received under a 60 percent “approval” rating.

Any new judge would be appointed by a “totally impartial” panel chosen by the governor. No shenanigans in that procedure, right?

The “Bar Poll” as it was called, was an integral part of the appointment of judges. But it had major flaws — any attorney could rate any judge — even if he had not even appeared before him. Larger firms could collude to make sure a judge was either rated positively or poorly. It was even rumored that many of the attorneys voted more than once in the same poll.

I am sure these abuses would not happen in pristine, pure Clark County. But do the voters really want to heed another outside elitist lining up to tell us that we don’t know enough to choose a judge? Who is behind this well-oiled campaign to appoint judges? Could it be attorneys? Would appointing judges make them more objective? Hardly. I think just the opposite.

Scott Carson


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