Today was a good day for me. Instead of going through the god awful commencement slog at my university and walking around like a doofus in one of those overpriced “Cap and Gown” rentals, I slept in and spent most of my morning watching clips of “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.” There was the usual material, war, oddity, fashion. I didn’t think I’d find anything special at all. That is, until this British talent did a segment on judicial retention in America.
For those of you who have never seen the inside of a court room (Probably 50% of my readers, I have big fans in prison. What up Korbis!), allow me to give you a bit of a primer on the topic. Basically, judicial retention is a system of elections for judges that hand down legal rulings.
In theory, the system holds those who have an immense degree of power in our system more accountable. Each election year, the voters can cast a ballot stating whether they approve of a judges performance (They usually run unopposed.). If a majority approves, the judge is re-elected. If not, he or she is removed from office at the end of the year. Sounds good right? Well, No!
Though the idea has some incredibly well-meaning intentions behind it, like a lot of things in this country that sound good in theory (Private prisons, defence contractors, etc.), it has become completely taken over by corruption and insane people thirsty for a bit of political power. Below are just a few examples of what this sort of thing does to our so-called fair judicial system.
Just last year, the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting ran a piece on one of Louisville’s “Finest”, Judge Sandra McLaughlin. During her time on the bench (Thankfully, voters ousted her in November.), this woman stated that a man wearing a Barack Obama shirt was “Lucky to get out of here alive” and even went so far as to deny defendants a public defender in some instances. Yeah, you read that right. A judge, someone who is supposed to understand how the American court system works, went so far as to blatantly violate the constitution in public.
Want more? Well, like a journalistic Joss Whedon, I will continue to entertain and yet simultaneously sadden you with my writing. Let me bring you to New York. In the Empire State last year, former Brooklyn City Councilman Noach Dear campaigned for a seat on the State Supreme Court and a nice 14 year period of job security. During his bid, many argued that he was unfit for the bench. Below is just a list of some of the controversies he was a part of.
Launched a non-profit called “Save Soviet Jewry”, paid himself a 50,000 dollar salary and had the organization pick up the tab for the phone bills in his private residence and automobile.
In 1990, he organized a fact finding trip to South Africa to examine Apartheid. What he didn’t mention to his black travelers who later bailed was that it was funded by the all-white Johannesburg City Council. Clearly, an impartial picture of the country would be seen.
Though those two are idiots, I feel as though I should complete this god awful trilogy by telling you the story of Judge G. Todd Baugh. For those of you who aren’t aware, this man became famous a little while ago for giving a rapist in Montana a month long sentence. In addition, he made cruel remarks to the victim in the case, claiming that she “was probably as much in control of the situation as was the defendant”. The outrage from this was so extraordinary that the Attorney General went so far as to appeal the sentence, an extremely rare action in itself.
And if you’re wondering, this bozo was first elected unopposed in the 1980’s.
Look, I don’t claim to be a genius, but it doesn’t take one to see that this system is terrible. As John Oliver pointed out, Bolivia and America are the only two nations that allow this sort of thing on a large scale. We’re better than Bolivia you guys. Every judge should have to be confirmed like those on the Supreme Court. Yes, it would take a while, but at least we could weed out the nuts like Ms. McLaughlin and Mr. Dear in New York. How nice that would be.