09/26/2010 12:56 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Danger of Ousting Judges for Unpopular Decisions

If anything should convince us that judicial elections should be ended, it is the current attempt in several states to oust judges for unpopular decisions. In Iowa the executive director of the National Organization of Marriage, which spent $230,000 on television advertising to oust three judges who allowed same-sex marriages, said "he hoped the judges' ouster would help prevent similar rulings elsewhere by making judges around the nation aware that their jobs are on the line". It is difficult to imagine a more chilling threat to the existence of an independent judiciary. It is a blatant attempt to intimidate judges.

Judges, even those who are elected, are not representatives of the people who have elected them. Their duty and oath is to follow existing state law and state and federal constitutions even when to do so runs contrary to the will of the majority. The judiciary is not American Idol; and judges should not be treated as contestants. Nor should they be ousted for rendering decisions that some segment of the public opposes. Every decision will have its supporters and detractors. The appellate process, not the election process, is meant to correct errors in judgment.

The Times article reveals that in Iowa "more than a third of those who go to the polls do not even cast votes in the judicial races". The reason is obvious. They do not have the slightest idea who the candidates are or whether or not they are qualified. Not voting is proper under those circumstances. Once it becomes accepted that money can buy victory for judges a special interest group supports and defeat those that it does not, the judiciary will cease to be independent. Without judicial independence there will be no justice for anyone -- including those who seek to control it.