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Should We Change Our Method of Selecting Judges?

NCJ Number
Judges' Journal Volume: 20 Issue: 4 Dated: (Fall 1981) Pages: 20-24,50-52
B B Cook
Date Published
8 pages
The 1980's will be a period of experimentation and instability with regard to judicial selection practices; the need for a selection process that invites nontraditional participants into the system will be reinforced.
An important question raised at the American Bar Association Conference on the Role of the Judge in the 1980's is whether new judicial roles require new ways of selecting judges. Once the judge's role is seen as subject to environmental pressures similar to those affecting other governmental roles, then a variety of methods to select those political decisionmakers can be seriously considered. Research suggests that judges define their roles and decide cases independently of the selection process used. The selection process proposed by reformers involves the ranking of judge candidates by their professional qualifications and the choice of the nominee from the small pool which is deemed well qualified. The actual selection process, regardless of formal description, begins with a different criterion: the political philosophy of the selecting authority. Within the pool of politically acceptable candidates, other criteria may be introduced. The changing structure of the courts invites revision of methods of selection. Democratic administrations, for example, took advantage of the addition of new Federal judgeships to reach out to nontraditional candidates through new search and screening mechanisms. As court structures become more complex, a variety of selection processes, including partisan elections in smaller communities, will be reintroduced. A high turnover of good judges may become more acceptable than a low turnover of mediocre judges. A bibliography is provided.


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