Resolution in Support of Efforts to Promote Impartial, Independent, and Highly-Qualified State Judiciaries
WHEREAS, most states select judges at some level through a form of popular election and many fill interim vacancies through appointments;
WHEREAS, state judicial elections have become increasingly contentious and expensive in recent years;
WHEREAS, the tone of judicial elections has substantially deteriorated;
WHEREAS, such developments reduce public confidence in the impartiality and independence of state judiciaries;
WHEREAS, the Conference of Chief Justices recently recognized the unique nature of judicial elections and the need to identify ways to conduct judicial elections that protect both the reality and appearance of open-mindedness and fairness, and that attract and retain quality judges;
WHEREAS, the electorate should have objective information available to make an informed choice between judicial candidates or when deciding whether or not to retain a judge;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the American Legislative Exchange Council supports efforts to insulate judges from improper political influence and pressure, to enhance public confidence in the judicial selection process, and to promote a fair process open to all qualified persons;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the American Legislative Exchange Council encourages states that elect judges to consider options for encouraging well-qualified candidates to seek judicial office, increasing information available to the public with respect to candidate qualifications, and promoting independence and impartiality in the courts. Options to achieve these goals include:
(A) Increasing the level of legal experience required to be a judicial candidate;
(B) Require judicial candidates to complete a professional judicial education course on judicial ethics, administration, and other subjects relevant to judicial performance;
(C) Form nonpartisan judicial qualification review committees that would ensure that candidates meet the minimum legal experience criteria set by law, complete required professional judicial education coursework, and issue non-binding evaluations of judicial candidates, including incumbent judges;
(D) Extend terms of service for members of the judiciary where terms are relatively short or retirement ages are unreasonably early to reduce excessive political influence and alleviate the burden of campaigning and fundraising on the judiciary; and
(E) Increase judicial compensation where needed to encourage highly-qualified candidates to run for office, to retain qualified judges.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that in states using an appointment process for judicial selection, whether for permanent appointments or on an interim basis to fill judicial vacancies, the American Legislative Exchange Council supports policy to create a system characterized by the following:
(A) A process by which the appointing authority, subject to legislative confirmation, fills judicial vacancies,
(B) One or more judicial nominee qualification review committees, whose membership is balanced among political parties, lawyers and non-lawyers, and nature of legal practice,
(C) A process by which qualifications of a nominee of the appointing authority are reviewed by a judicial qualification review committee prior to legislative consideration.
Approved by ALEC Board of Directors on January 8, 2007.
Reapproved by ALEC Board of Directors on January 28, 2013.