The State Judicial Selection Process

Selecting judges is an important process. The people designated to this task must make sure the judge upholds the integrity of the law. This is a goal that must be met every time a vacancy is open. Everything in politics should not revolve around political party. Every state has a standard to which is holds candidates to, to qualify for a judicial position.

In some states electing a judge is left up to the citizens of that state; that is the case in Georgia, they have a Judicial Nominating Commission as well. Candidate for a judge in Georgia, are ultimately listed on the ballot without their political party being referenced. Before any person is placed on the ballot they have a certain criteria to meet. Depending on the court they will become a judge over, specifies the criteria they must meet in the state of Georgia.

For candidates for a Probate Court judge, the person must be a United States citizen, a resident of the county for two years, they must be a minimum of twenty five years old, be a registered voter, have a high school diploma or equivalent, and complete specific training. An interesting fact about the selection for probate court is they are elected through a partisan election. This selection process is the same for Magistrate Court and Juvenile Court judges.

In State Court the candidate must be a state resident for three years, be at least twenty five years old, and have practiced law for seven years. In counties in Georgia with a population over 96,000 people, Probate Court judges must have practiced law for seven years as well as meet the other criteria outlined for them. One of the qualifications for Magistrate Court Judge does not include practicing law. There is no mention of any training as well. The only court that participated in a non-partisan selection is State Court. Probate and Magistrate Court participate in a partisan selection. Juvenile Court Justices are appointed by a Superior Court Judge within the same circuit. There is on county in Georgia that allows their Juvenile Court Judge to be elected by voters.

On the contrary, the state of Michigan participates in a non-partisan selection throughout their judicial system. To be qualified for a District Court Judge the candidate must be licensed to practice law in the state, have practiced law for five years; there is no minimum age specified, but the candidate must be younger than seventy years old. In Michigan, to be considered for a judge in Probate Court, the same criteria for applies as if the candidate was considering to be a judge in a District Court. To qualify for a Municipal Court Judge in Michigan, the candidate does not have to have practiced law in that state before they are granted the position.

In the event that a judge needs to be removed from their prestigious position there are guidelines that the commission must follow before they can simply fire that judge. The judges may be impeached and convicted by two-thirds vote of the Senate. In Georgia, the removal and retirement decisions must be approved by the Supreme Court. In Michigan, almost the same rules apply. The impeachment of judges is contingent on the votes of the Senate. The governor can remove a judge with the compliance of the Senate.

Michigan does not have a Judicial Nominating Committee because the state participates in a non-partisan selection, but the state does have the Judicial Tenure Commission. This commission serves to hold state judges accountable for their actions. The commission makes it possible for the public to have confidence in the court system of Michigan. It gives people a peace of mind that no one is above the law.

Michigan put the ruling of the state in the citizens’ hands. They are held accountable to voting for individuals who they think will uphold the integrity of the judicial system. A non-partisan system makes it so people will have to conduct research on the candidates for judges. It gets the public involved with each election. On the other hand, the state of Georgia seems to decide the fate of the people for them. The citizens of Georgia can only select judges for State Court, but even those candidates are selected by a committee. The state of Georgia does not seem like a state where they trust their citizens to make sound decisions when it comes to the judicial system. The citizens are given people to select from. It is true that political parties are not listed for this election, but for Probate Court and Municipal court they are not given the option to vote for these judges. There is more freedom to choose in Michigan. It is up to the citizens to make the right choice for them.

Georgia should implement non-partisan selections for all courts like the state of Michigan. The state should also have a Judicial Tenure Commission. The state of Michigan should be a model for Georgia. The election process for Georgia judges does not seem fair. The people should be able to vote who takes office. The citizens are able to vote for other offices, why should they be limited to what justices they can elect?

The people know what issues are relevant to their community. The judges should be there to help their situations. Not every person who commits a crime should be sent to prison. There are people who need rehabilitative services. Prisons sometimes, can act as a rehabilitation center but there are other programs in place that are state or federally funded, that can help an individual better than being confined to a prison cell. Judges who do not support these programs will send each individual who come into their court room to prison, which will soon dismantle these programs because of inactivity. Also, prison space will be limited for offenders of serious crimes. Sending an individual across state lines to serve their prison term will cost monies as well. The judges need to be smart and aware about the federal program budget.

In my opinion qualifying for a judge does not mean meeting the minimum criteria set by the state. It also means being conscious of the community that needs help. Georgia is a state that has been a “Red” state for the last nineteen years. This may be due to the fact that the state conducts a partisan election. A partisan election lists the political parties of the candidates on the ballot. This does not give people a fair chance. It does not hold the citizens accountable. It can make them vote based on political party. The citizens should be aware of the solutions a candidate wants to bring to their community. With partisan elections, that need to know what resolutions are possible goes out of the window. Some people claim to identify with a party, rather than the issues they support.

There is nothing wrong with being a “Blue” or “Red’ state, but there is something wrong with the people who do not do their research on candidates. Political parties should not be a factor when it comes to voting for judicial justices, governor, or a congressional position. There may be too much emphasis on political parties that is hinders the people from being exposed to what issues need to be addressed in the community and what they need to do to help. Helping the opposite party that a person identifies with may seem like a taboo. Putting emphasis on the parties does not promote growth within a community.

An influential judge within a community is effective measure. Being able to vote for who is presiding over the court system is critical as well. If the people do not see a person as being a mediator for the community they should not be in office. The people know what they need in their communities. The Judicial Nominating Committee does not seem like a fair way for judges to be elected. The people have no input in who should be considered to be a judge. The meetings the committee has are closed to the public. If the committee is composed of one political party they can compose the candidates in the favor of their party.

Upholding the law should be the first reason why a person wants to be a judge. They should know what issues are prevalent to the community in which they will be presiding over. Every state has their own way of selecting judges. The non-partisan way of selecting justices is slowly diminishing. There are only a hand full of states that use this method. The partisan way puts too much emphasis on political parties, which should not be the emphasis of an election. With a Constitution that is for the people, the people should have more say so in their judicial system.

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