For the past ten years there has been a well coordinated effort to reshape the composition of America’s state courts by excluding conservative, rule-of-law judges from the bench. The plan is to replace the publicly elected judiciary with what they ironically call “Merit Selection. Under “merit selection,” the power to select judges is transferred from the people to a small, unelected, unaccountable commission comprised primarily of legal elites, typically including representatives of powerful special interest groups, such as state trial lawyers associations.
“Who is behind this effort? The Spooky Dude himself, progressive sugar daddy George Soros who’s Open Society Institute (OSI) has invested at least $45.4 million into its campaign to reshape the judiciary.
A report by the American Justice Partnership describes the effort as using the full bag of Soros’ brand of campaign tactics through an organization his OSI funds called Justice at Sake (JAS) .
For example this was the Soros approach in Pennsylvania:
- Define the problem. In June 2010, Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts (PMC), a group that has been partially bankrolled by OSI since 2001, released the results of a public opinion poll that it spins as “proof ” that voters in the state prefer “merit selection” over democratic elections. On hand were officials from JAS and the Committee for Economic Development, organizations that also derive substantial funds from OSI. Not surprisingly, the fact that the poll showed 75 percent of Pennsylvanians believe “merit selection” will not remove politics from judicial selection and that nearly 70 percent believe “merit selection” gives “politicians and trial lawyers” the power to pick judges was never mentioned, nor were the poll’s findings that 79 percent of Pennsylvanians believe democratically elected judges are “qualified” and 73 percent describe them as “fair.”
- Raise the issue’s profile. As part of the spin campaign, PMC organized a press conference featuring political heavyweights, such as Governor Ed Rendell and former Governors Tom Ridge and Richard Thornburgh. Pennsylvania newspapers and editorial boards fell predictably into line, printing major stories about the poll’s release but nothing about the poll’s funding. PMC has also established a blog called JudgesOnMerit to continue the “merit selection” drum beat.
- Finance an artificial grassroots campaign. For nearly a decade, OSI has been financing an artificial grassroots campaign in Pennsylvania through PMC to “educate the public on the need to reform the state’s judicial selection system.” Since 2004, the grants have been specifically in support of “merit selection.”
- Establish the desired policy outcome. PMC and the “merit selection” crowd promoted legislation that would take the power of choosing judges away from Pennsylvania’s 8.7 million registered voters and hand it to a 14-member panel. The governor and legislators would pick a majority of eight panel members, most likely chosen from legal special interest groups, such as the trial lawyers association.
- Demonize the opposition. When Pennsylvania House Judiciary Chair Tom Caltagirone, a Democrat, blocked the “merit selection” bill, he was pilloried in the media. Rep. Caltagirone’s sin: “I would rather let the people decide.”
The battle is still on-going, but various aspects of the above have been used in other states
such as Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nevada and other states “merit selection” supporters have targeted.
Justice at Stake’s efforts are driven by the claim that judges who accept campaign contributions cannot be impartial (they offer no evidence to that effect).
In August 2007, three law professors from three prestigious law schools, Stephen J. Choi (NYU Law School), G. Mitu Gulati (Duke Law School) and Eric A. Posner (University
of Chicago Law School) published a study through the University of Chicago Law School that addressed the question of whether appointed judges are superior to elected judges. They examined three years of decisions by every high court judge in every state – a total of 408
judges and nearly 30,000 opinions. They evaluated judges based on three criteria: judicial effort, skill and independence. As they put it in their conclusion:
“We began this project with the assumption that the data would demonstrate that appointed judges are better than elected judges. Our results persuade us that the story is more complicated. It may be that elected judges are, indeed, superior to appointed judges. At a minimum, the conventional wisdom needs to be reexamined.” (pp. 42-43)
Not only did the authors find that appointed judges are not superior, they also concluded, based on the data, that elected judges have the highest independence.
“… the data does not support the received wisdom that appointed judges are more
independent than electoral judges.” (p. 20) In fact: “Judges subject to partisan election have the highest independence.” (p. 19)
The three legal scholars pointed out that appointed Judges have built in prejudices:
“In a system that uses judicial appointments, nothing forces the appointing official to select judges on the basis of their legal ability; cronyism is very common.” (p. 1)
And that voting may indeed “weed out” the lack of independence:
“… when many people participate in a decision making process, aggregation of information occurs, which can produce more accurate results than when the decision is made by only one person.” (p. 1).
In practice, however, these commissions are typically controlled by legal elites (often trial lawyers) that have no accountability to the public whatsoever.
- In Kansas, by law, five of the nine members of the Supreme Court Nominating Commission must be lawyers.
- In Missouri, three of the seven members of the Appellate Judicial Commission have ties to the Missouri Association of Trial Lawyers.
- In Tennessee, lawyers held 14 of the 17 seats on the state’s Judicial Selection Commission until 2009 when the legislature cut the number to 10 lawyer seats to reduce special interest influence. However, though the new Judicial Nominating Commission need not have more than 10 lawyers, it ended up with 15 of 17 lawyers.
- In Maryland, lawyers control 16 of the 17 seats on the commission responsible for choosing appellate court judges.
Why should this be important to you. The state bar associations and legal groups who dominate these selection commissions are dominated by trial lawyers. According tot Opensecrets.com which tracks donations for federal candidates;
Contributions to federal candidates and political committees by lawyers have increased during the past 10 years, and collectively, they are consistently larger during presidential election years. Each cycle, the contributions significantly favor Democrats. In the 2008 election cycle, the industry contributed a massive $234 million to federal political candidates and interests , 76 percent of which went to Democratic candidates and committees.
The judicial system should maintain a necessary degree of impartiality, but our founding fathers did not intend for judges to be separated from the will of the people. They also did not intend for judge selection to be placed in the hands of one interest group who pushes the contra-constitutional progressive philosophy.
About 95 percent of America’s civil disputes end up in state courts. That’s an enormous amount of power, which needs checks and balances which are provided by the will of the people. That is why Soros is spending so much money to disenfranchise the people and put judge selection in the hands of lawyers who are more likely to vote the way he does.
Just before it was defeated by Nevada voters, in an essay entitled “Soros Bets on Nevada,” the Wall Street Journal editorialized that the Nevada merit selection campaign was the “test drive” for the Soros effort to bring merit selection to the 20 states that do not yet have it.
“States using this so-called merit selection method have had their judicial selections manipulated by lawyers and bar associations that nominate guild favorites. In most cases this has pushed courts to the activist left,” wrote the Journal. “That’s a nifty outcome for liberal groups who see the state courts as the next frontier for moving political agendas.”
There is much more to this story, I recommend you go to the American Justice Partnership site and learn how you can protect your rights!