A last minute reminder: please vote to retain all the appellate and Supreme Court judges.
Some of them may be too liberal for you, some too conservative for me. But judicial independence requires that judges not be punished with removal just because they made rulings we disagree with – as long as those rulings are still legally legitimate.
For example, there is a movement to remove the California Supreme Court justices who voted against allowing Prop 49 in the ballot. Prop 49 would have asked whether the US Congress should pass an amendment nullifying Citizens United, and the CA Legislature should ratify such amendment. The CA Supreme Court ordered to take it off the ballot, until they have a full hearing on the matter, because, given that the California constitution does not make provisions for advisory questions, there is a likelihood that the proposition would be found unconstitutional.
Whether you agree or disagree with that decision, the point is that it was a legitimate one. There is a big question of law here, and judges often take it maddeningly slowly when the questions are very important.
Removing a judge over that decision is crazy. Judicial review exists exactly because sometimes legislative bodies – and voters – get it wrong. If we do away with judges who tell us we were wrong, we might as well do away with judicial review altogether.
I don’t think judges should be elected in the first place, but they certainly should not be voted out unless they are corrupt, incompetent or guilty of misconduct.
While nobody has made any such accusations against any of the Court of Appeals or Supreme Court justices in the current ballot, sometimes you do find judges that need to be voted out. That seems to be clearly the case with San Jose judge Diane Ritchie. She is considered so incompetent that she doesn’t even know when she’s being unethical (hint: asking a lawyer with a case before you for a political contribution is not cool, neither is asking a criminal defendant for his phone number to go out in a date). She doesn’t know the law, she doesn’t know court procedure, she can’t understand pleadings, she is such a disaster that she got challenged by both a prosecutor and a defense attorney. That judge needs to go, but she is the exception that proves the rule. Ritchie, btw, was originally elected, rather than appointed by the Governor.
Let’s keep our powers separate and our courts clean and retain all the judges, whether we agree with their rulings or not.