Licensed in Missouri and Kansas

Why Unelected Judges Are a Good Thing

Oftentimes you'll hear politicians rail against unelected judges and that there is a lack of accountability in the judicial system. However, these attacks miss the very purpose of the judiciary, which is to be a neutral arbiter of the law. Judges and courts are an essential branch of the government, and function best when nonpartisan.

Judges have tremendous job security. Article III federal court judges are appointed to the bench by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. A federal court judge serves for life and may only be removed by impeachment by the House and conviction by the Senate. This has only happened eight times in the history of the U.S.

In Missouri, the Missouri Plan is used to appoint circuit judges in Jackson, Clay, Platte, Green, and St. Louis counties since 1940. The Missouri plan is a nonpartisan plan where these counties have judicial commissions made up of the chief judge of the court of appeals where the county sits, two attorneys elected by the Missouri Bar and two citizens selected by the governor. An appellate commission also exists which is made up of the chief justice of the supreme court, three attorneys elected by the Missouri Bar, and three citizens appointed by the governor. When there is a vacancy on the bench, the corresponding commission selects three candidates, and the governor selects the judge from those candidates. Further, voters get to vote on whether to retain that judge after their first year and every so often after that. Only two circuit judges have ever been removed in a retention election.

In exchange for this job security, the judicial branch has the least power of the three branches of government. The executive branch runs the government day-to-day and controls the military. The legislature controls the purse-strings and codifies laws. The judicial branch resolves disputes that are brought before it.

The judiciary has no power to go out and find disputes. It merely rules on controversies brought before it. When a party thinks a judge got something wrong, they have the right to appeal and have that decision reviewed by a panel of appellate judges. And when an unpopular decision is made and upheld, oftentimes the legislature can make a law to undo the court's interpretation.

An unelected judiciary is essential because judges must be neutral arbiters of the law. This often means that judges make unpopular, but correct, decisions. If a judge was forced to think about his or her own job security before making a ruling, this would obviously impact the accuracy of the rulings. Unlike a politician, a judge has to do what is right, not what is popular.

If you would like to speak with an experienced Kansas City personal injury attorney about whether or not unselected judges are a good thing then you should contact Meyerkord & Russell today. Our firm handles a wide variety of personal injury related accidents including car accidents, truck accidents and pedestrian accidents. Don't hesitate to call the firm for more information today.