Counterpoint: Why elect judges? Because it's the law

  • Article by: WILLIAM A. COOPER
  • Updated: February 19, 2014 - 6:38 PM

Relying on Judicial Selection Committee and appointments ignores state Constitution.

District Judge Thomas G. McCarthy writes in his Feb. 18 commentary that he will retire early so that his replacement will be appointed rather than elected, as is mandated by our Minnesota Constitution (“The best way to pick a judge’s successor”).

Judge McCarthy is eloquent about his disdain for the electoral process. Voters who “may not know much, if anything, about you or your opponent” will elect you. Referring to the Judicial Selection Committee, he goes on to write: “Voters are under no obligation to consider any of the attributes that the committee must consider. In fact, they may not be aware of how any particular candidate would measure up.”

I am sure Fidel Castro in Cuba and Chairman Kim Jong Un in North Korea have similar philosophies about the democratic process and the ability of ordinary people to elect candidates.

McCarthy would rather have a Judicial Selection Committee appoint judges. Who sits on these committees? The very same lawyers whose firms would appear before the judges they select for appointment. Lawyers selecting judges: There’s a good idea.

The lawsuit Republican Party of Minnesota vs. White mentioned by McCarthy was won by Republicans, eliminating rules promulgated by the Minnesota Supreme Court that effectively muzzled candidates from speaking out on their views. These rules were created to keep voters from determining their preferences for judges. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed these rules were unconstitutional.

In their wisdom, Minnesota voters require the election of judges in Minnesota. This is clearly stated in our Constitution. It was hotly debated when it was adopted. Only when a judge dies in office or is ill would a judge be appointed. This is the law. Those who disagree with the Constitution on this issue can work to change it, but they cannot ignore it.

I wonder how a judge with such disdain for the ability of voters to select candidates in a democratic election and who does not respect the rule of the law in our Constitution was appointed by the all-knowing Judicial Selection Committee.

 

William A. Cooper is chairman and CEO of TCF Financial Corp. and former chairman of the Minnesota Republican Party.

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