THE BLOG
10/22/2013 09:28 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

Judicial Elections - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Voltaire said: "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." In this case, I agree with everything Judge Carlo Key of San Antonio, Texas said, but I cannot defend to the death his right to say it. Judge Key announced that he is leaving the Republican Party, citing the GOP's "pettiness and bigotry" toward the gay community. He said: "Make no mistake: I have not left the Republican Party. It left me." He went on to say: "I cannot tolerate a political party that demeans Texans based on their sexual orientation, the color of their skin or their economic status." He announced he will run as a Democrat. His video announcement ended with: "I will not be a member of a party in which hate speech elevates candidates for higher office rather than disqualifying them."

I agree with every word he uttered. I cheer his stance, his courage and his integrity---particularly in Texas. But nothing demonstrates the failings of judicial elections more than this. A judge has to announce that he opposes bigotry and discrimination and has to change parties in order to be elected! Judges should not be members of political parties. They should not run on platforms. They should not be elected based upon popularity. And they certainly should not have to proclaim that they are opponents of bigotry in order to serve.

The conservatives have trotted out the same disqualifiers for years---they don't want judges who are soft on crime, legislate from the bench, thwart the will of the majority or who are activists----all of which comes down to opposing decisions with which they do not agree. Apparently when the conservative courts do it, they are just carrying out the Constitution----such as letting corporations buy elections. There is this constant theme that somehow judges should be responsive and accountable to the public and that elections serve that purpose. But it is the judge who resists the pressures of public opinion and abides by the rule of law who is to be admired and respected and should be chosen (appointed) to serve.

So while I agree with everything Judge Key had to say, I regret that he felt he had to say it in order to serve as an impartial and fair judge. Let's end judicial selection by election.