Thursday, February 13th, 2014
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
APPOINTING FEDERAL JUDGES A BAD IDEA!
Last week’s column discussed the election of judges and the undue influence of campaign funds. A number of responses suggested doing away with judicial elections, and following the federal path of presidential appointment. But is the appointive process really better than electing judges? Do citizens get better choices and more competent jurists? Not the way the system works at the federal level.
First of all, presidents do not really choose federal judges outside of the Supreme Court. At the district court and court of appeals levels, the president, as a general rule, defers to the choice of the state’s U.S. senators. If the president is a democrat, the democratic senator in the home state of the proposed appointee makes the recommendation. So to qualify in most states as a federal judge, it’s not what you know but whom you know.
There are no better examples of rank political persuasions over judicial choices than right here in my home state of Louisiana. As quoted in last week’s column, Huey Long said it best: “I’m all for appointin’ judges as long as I can do the appointin.” Cronyism has been the deciding factor in a number of federal appointees to the bench.
At the court of appeals level, incompetent judges have sparked a wave of concern and criticism. Because the U. S. Supreme Court is hearing fewer cases as each year goes by, the federal court of appeals is the last vestige of hope for any effort to overturn a lower court decision. Out of more than 10,000 appeals filed last year at the nation’s highest court, only 65 were even considered. The action is at the court of appeals level. And hands down, the worst such court in the nation sits right there in New Orleans.