Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Judicial Seats in New Mexico

At present we have a system where a bipartisan committee reviews candidates for positions on the court bench in this state. Then they pick a short list that goes to the governor for the final choice. After they are appointed judges must run in one partisan race in order to keep the seat. There after they must run in retention elections to keep the seat. At present there are not life time appointments to our state benches.

Questions have arisen in the southern part of the state about the possibility that at least one judge though he could buy a position on the bench. This would require that the judge was able to corrupt the selection process by the bipartisan committee and then buy off the governor. Even with that done then he would have had to still run in a partisan race, so he would also have had to find a way to corrupt the election process to ensure that he was elected to office.

The idea of appointing someone to a seat on one of our courts has been a difficult issue because most judges don’t feel that they should have to run for office. Judges feel that they are above the people they judge and therefore should not be answerable to the general public when it comes to our legal system. Some of our judges drive fancy cars and only socialize with other judges and lawyers. At present the courts are trying to make a new rule that would only encourage that type of behavior because it forbids our judges from taking part in politics unless they are running for retention. This type of behavior only encourages a lack of respect from the general public toward the rule of law. If voters don’t see that the judiciary cares about the people then the judiciary has failed to respect the spirit of the legal system in this country.

The lack of education in this state when it comes to how judges are chosen is appalling to say the least. Judges run for election and then disappear for public view until the next time they are forced to run for retention. They have failed to provide public outreach where they teach the general public about the legal system. They leave that duty up to the jury division of the court system. The lack of education has allowed the public to think that one could just buy a seat on the courts by paying off one powerful political individual.

To thinks that some judges would hope to change the system so that it allowed the governor to appoint judges to the bench without any elections where the voters could have their say only fosters the view that judges are corrupt individuals who don’t care about the voting public. There is no easy answer to these problems since most judges are self absorbed workaholics who hate public life.