Jeffrey Toobin: Judges for Sale

August 14, 2012
NEW YORK, New York (The New Yorker) — Campaign-finance discussions tend to focus on a) the Presidential race and b) the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, but the biggest outrage concerning money in politics has little to do with either. It involves elections that rarely receive the attention they deserve: those for judgeships.
Thirty-eight states elect judges to their highest courts. (Fortunately, New York does not, though many lower-court judges in the state stand for election.) State courts decide about ninety-five per cent of the cases in American courts. The federal courts, where the judges are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate, hear only about five per cent, though those appointments get far more attention. Criminal prosecutions, civil lawsuits, child-custody matters, personal injuries—almost all are decided in state courts, under rules established by each state supreme court.

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  • Judicial Election

    Judges are elected by popular vote.
  • Democratic Appointment

    Judges are appointed directly by a democratic body, or appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of some democratic body.