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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The obvious reason for attempting to rein in the power of the judiciary is the fact that it is clearly perceived to be out of control.If every citizen is held accountable for his actions , why not the government, it is inheritent in the nature of humans that imunity from accountability breeds arrogance and abuse of power, reining in that power is the constitutional right of the people.

Posted by: mcewen | October 7, 2006 11:22 AM

Why can't (Judges) Eng or Rusch fall over dead, you know? I'll tell you what, I have no idea. (inaudible) Why doesn't Rusch fall over dead?" Bob Chavis former Yankton States Attorney.

Judge Arthur L. Rusch is a perfect example of a corrupt activist Judge. Rusch placed someont on probation for passing felony bad check. While on probation the probationer continued to pass felony bad checks to the tume of 1/4 million dollars.Probationer used fake social secuirty numbers to open checking accounts and pass no account checks.
Judge Rusch knew it and has a vendetta against the probationers ex-spouse. So took the probationer of probation early. Even a federal conviction for identity theft while on probation is not a probation violation.

The ABA is quetioning why Judges are giving money to no on e when clearly federal law states Judges can not contrubite to such causes.

Judges are out of control and have become the most powerfull branch of government.

Posted by: gregery | October 7, 2006 07:51 PM

"Activist judge" is a term used by those who don't like or agree with a judge's decision(s). Since judges routinely enter orders that at least one side of the case doesn't like, that would make every judge an "activist."
The genius of the founders (3 separate, co-equal branches of government)is under attack in Colorado, South Dakota and elsewhere. It's time for enlightened citizens to stand up against those who seek to destroy our American plan for justice. The initiatives in South Dakota and Colorado should be soundly defeated.

Posted by: david barnes | October 10, 2006 12:10 PM

I do not agree with the term "Activist Judge". I would better qualify most I have either met or whose case I have reviewed in Pennsylvania as "Opinion Judges". By far the most disgraceful thing a judge can do is to rule based on their opinion. There are written laws and, yes, the judges are their to interperet them, but not to re-write them because they believe the lawmakers meant something other than what they actually wrote. It is all to often the case where a small loophole in a law is ripped wide open by a judge to allow themselves free will to rule how they feel rather than what is actually written. Better written laws only seem to infuriate our judges to the point where they actually rule outside of what is written. When they do this, there is not nuch to hold them responsible. Appealing to a higher court is useless, as the higher courts usually feel neutered by better written laws as well. To continue to fight a case requires more money by an individual or company than the case is usually worth. So I would agree that some type of change is needed. A blended approach to the problem is probably best. I think the people deserve the right to determine who judges them, and I beleive any and all decisions made by any judge should be detailed and available to all who wish to read. I am sure there will be a fee with that though. Proabably about $2.20 per page.... wink ;)

Posted by: Richard P. | October 25, 2006 01:22 PM

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