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Should Supreme Court Justices be elected or appointed? Show more Show less
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The Supreme Court is the highest court in the legal hierarchy. The system in which Supreme Court justices are elected or appointed may shape how they act and decide on rulings. Even though justices are usually appointed, some argue that elections should be held to ensure an independent judiciary.

Supreme court justices should be elected Show more Show less

Elections are the basis of direct democracy. They ensure that citizens have choices from all spectra of judicial leanings instead of one-party nominating like-minded justices. Elections avoid the possibility of a politicized judiciary.
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An elected Supreme Court would be more diverse

Judicial elections give citizens a variety of choices across the spectrum of judicial leanings and backgrounds. Judicial appointments yield power to a small group of elitist White male lawyers.

The Argument

Judicial selection would produce a more diverse Supreme Court with justices from all backgrounds and judicial leanings compared to the judicial appointments. For example, currently, the U.S. Supreme Court is composed entirely of people who went to law school at Harvard or Yale. Even though this fact may imply that justices are qualified for the positions, it represents a troubling lack of diversity. Citizens may feel that elites do not have their welfare in mind. Judicial selections can draw on a wider range of candidates than those who impress the Senate Judiciary Committee with their education at elite institutions.[1] In particular, minority communities prefer judicial selection over a judicial appointment. Appointment selection methods yield power to a small group of elitist White male lawyers to appoint other elitist White male lawyers to the bench. This fact is apparent from the predominance of white males on the U.S. Supreme Court. A 2004 study has found that the Judicial Merit Selection Commission did not nominate two-thirds of the African American candidates who applied for a justice position. Similarly, a Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund study found that elective systems result in greater Hispanic representation.[2] Overall, when an appointive authority is not sensitive to creating a representative judiciary, judicial elections become the only solution.

Counter arguments

Judicial elections do not always promote diversity in a Supreme Court. Minority candidates face unique barriers under the elections model. First of all, the issue of campaign finance is an obstacle for minority judicial candidates. High costs of campaigns pose a threat to minority candidates since majority candidates are more advantaged in raising money for their campaigns. Law professor Spencer Overton confirms that “Money comes from a narrow segment of the population and as a result campaign finance impacts the diversity of the bench.” A successful campaign heavily relies on private individual contributions. A study found that although people of color are almost 30% of the U.S. population, they make up less than 1% of the contributions to judicial campaigns.[2] Secondly, even when minority candidates can raise sufficient campaign funds, the issue of low public participation in judicial elections remains an obstacle. For example, in the USA, minority participation rates lag far behind whites. 62% of whites vote in judicial elections, whereas only 48% of African Americans go to the polls. As a result, minority candidates suffer in low turnout elections.[2] Additionally, minority candidates (namely women and people of color) struggle to overcome negative stereotypes when running for elections. There is a false assumption that these candidates are unable to make fair decisions in matters that involve their particular minority group's interests. Hence, they become less likely to be elected. As a piece of evidence to this counter-argument, a 2011 study conducted by Steven Zeidman from the CUNY School of Law found that in the United States, elections did not increase diversity the outcome.[3] In short, minority communities are less able to financially support their candidates and more likely to suffer from low voter turnouts when compared to majority communities.

Proponents

Premises

Rejecting the premises

References

  1. https://eu.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2016/09/15/supreme-court-garland-scalia-elect-justices-glenn-reynolds/90351964/
  2. https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/uploads/3b9c5e9c-2f86-494e-afa0-4637db5b6b58/answering_20050923.pdf
  3. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1828924
This page was last edited on Thursday, 29 Oct 2020 at 03:22 UTC

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