Opinion: NC should alter judge selection process

Opinion: NC should alter judge selection process

Cory Spiers

A large part of the reason many Americans feel so disconnected from politics is a belief that the government is unresponsive to popular will.

That impression is unfortunately accurate, and we need to look no further than our own state to see it.

The New Politics of Judicial Elections, a 2012 report about campaign spending from the organization Justice at Stake, the New York University Law School and the National Institute for State Politics, revealed some startling facts about the 2012 Supreme Court race in North Carolina.

These sources found that a total of $4.4. million was spent in that race, $3.8 million of which consisted of outside donations. This amount places North Carolina fourth highest in the nation for donations in judicial elections.

Holding judicial elections presents multiple problems in and of itself. Why should we have elections for an office intended to be an impartial arbiter of justice in society?

The problems are only multiplied when we throw enormous amounts of money into these elections.

The Justice at Stake report notes that the judicial elections have become “alarmingly indistinguishable from ordinary political campaigns.”

It should make us uncomfortable that the lines between judge and politician are being blurred, and so much of this money is from out-of-state contributors.

Academic research indicates that money might not have the great effect in politics as many people believe.

A 2013 report in the American Economic Journal states that “the empirical literature has had mixed success in finding systematic evidence of an effect of contributions on policy outcomes.”

Still, we can oppose the way that judicial elections in our state play out.

The best solution would likely be a move away from elections to some type of appointment or merit system, which would eliminate concerns of campaign finance issues along with the other potential problems with electing judges, whose roles should be as removed from politics as possible.

I certainly do not believe that we will see positive change in this direction with the current government, but altering the way we choose judges in the state, and thus the influence that outside parties can have on them, should be the goal.

Opinion: KEVIN GRIFFIN, Opinion writer