Making Judges More Accountable (not that they need to be)
In Colorado, as I have mentioned before, there is an election-year fight in process between roiling conservatives who want to impose term limits upon all appellate judges in the state (thus destroying, in one fell swoop, the slim Democratic majority on the state's Supreme Court) and... well, everyone else, who see the measure for the unalloyed waste of time it represents. A bad idea from the start, Amendment 40 has been rejected by most of the state's political and legal leaders and that was before a prestigious new group came out with a series of practical solutions that might ease concerns about judicial accountability without upsetting the entire apple court, I mean, cart, the way Amendment 40ers want.
The University of Denver's "Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System" hasn't been around long enough to yet live up to its exalted name. But it's a serious effort by serious members of the legal system to make things better. Run by former Colorado Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Love Kourlis, the daughter of a former Republican governor of the state, the Institute earlier this week came out with a report (here is a summary) entitled "Shared Expectations-- Judicial Accountability in Context." Its conclusion? There are ways, apolitical ways, nonpartisan ways, relatively simple ways, to determine whether our judges are giving us fair justice for the money they make and the power they hold.
The Institute's report suggests that people would feel better about judges-- feel less like judges are just as slimy as politicians-- if they had more access to information about the way in which judges work. So there ought to be more evaluations of judges, more often, and not just by their peers, or attorneys, but by non-attorneys, too. The evaluations should allow for anonymous reporting of judicial conduct and the results of the evaluations should be made public as quickly and as thoroughly as possible. Not exactly rocket-science, right? But certainly not a bad start. The irony of it all? Colorado already has in place, on a state-wide level, many of the suggestions offered by the Institute. That's why Amendment 40 supporters this week were apoplectic when the report came out. Just what they need, in the middle of their doomed campaign-- another reason to vote against the measure.
By Andrew Cohen |
October 6, 2006; 9:00 AM ET
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