LA Judicial Elections & Why People Shouldn’t Vote On Judges
June 3, 2016 (Mimesis Law) – Judges are a funny animal in the world of politics. Nobody gets a job in government these days without toeing some party line. But they are also expected to be fair. In other words, play the political game to get the job. Then stop the politics to do the job. Yeah, right.
In Los Angeles County, people vote on local judges in a popular, though nonpartisan, election. According to the Los Angeles Times, it sounds like most of the election season is spent fighting over “ballot titles”.
These ballot titles are three word summaries allowed by California’s election code. The candidate can describe his or her primary profession in that space, which is then printed on the ballot. Often, those three words are all the voter will know about the candidate. Because, you know, who cares about stupid judges’ elections?
It sounds like a pretty good idea. Lawyers are often running for these positions. Imagine the ability to describe yourself in three words. It would be interesting to see how most people, especially candidates, describe themselves. “Really fair guy”. “Defender of justice”. “Hard working lawyer”. Just kidding. Those are a little over the top. The candidates are supposed to describe their job. Which is a little easier. “Criminal defense lawyer”. “Local prosecutor”.
These candidates are typically members of the California bar, running for a position in the judicial branch. Surely they can be trusted to stay above the fray. Accurately describe your job, grab some votes, move on to a life of dispensing great wisdom and justice to the little people appearing in front of your powerful bench.
Of course, it doesn’t work that way. The Times story describes exactly what happens when candidates have to describe themselves to voters in three words (which is about the attention span of the average American these days):
Attempts to craft the loftiest or toughest-sounding ballot titles have triggered legal fights and accusations of deception that have become as much a part of judicial elections in L.A. County as posting political campaign signs — a dysfunctional reality that has spurred some legal experts to call for election reform.
For example, one deputy district attorney who works in the white-collar unit calls herself a “violent crimes prosecutor”. Another deputy district attorney lost a court fight to use the same moniker because, well, she wasn’t actually a violent crimes prosecutor. One defense lawyer called herself a “violent crimes counsel” so voters would think she was a prosecutor instead of a defense lawyer.
Are these Los Angeles lawyers all a bunch of liars? Tricksters trying to pull one over on the poor unsuspecting public? Some worry about the effect this is having on an innocent electorate.
But critics say attempts to inflate ballot titles are especially worrying when they involve lawyers campaigning for the bench, arguing that they undermine the public’s faith in the justice system.
Give me a break. Lawyers campaigning are undermining the public’s faith in the justice system? There is one very simple explanation for why this is happening. Voters are ignorant and can’t be bothered to actually figure out who, or what, they are voting for.
Political consultant David Gould, who is working on behalf of several attorneys running for judge this year, said the reason candidates use the tactic is simple: It works.
“The sexier your title, the better your chance of getting elected,” said Gould, who has worked on judicial races for more than 15 years.
Let us delve into that theory for a minute. A sexy, strong title gets a candidate elected to a seat on the bench in one of the largest cities in America. No matter what the candidate stands for or has done in the past. As long as you think up a sexy title, here’s your gavel and robe. Go forth and do justice.
The public and all its faith? They are the problem, not the victim.
The titles are especially important in judicial races because the elections are nonpartisan and, [Gould] said, the candidates are among the least known on the ballot. The bloc of voters who cast ballots during June primaries — when many judges are elected — skews older and more conservative, Gould said, and accordingly has a tough-on-crime view that favors prosecutors over defense attorneys.
Seems the voters want justice for all the criminals who will appear in those courtrooms. And don’t forget the children.
While brainstorming potential designations for one of his clients in 2012, [political consultant] Gould conducted a makeshift poll of employees in his office.
“OK,” he asked them, “Who do you hate the most?”
People who hurt children, they answered, so the candidate ran as a “child molestation prosecutor,” and won.
Here is a little secret. That is not tough on crime. That is complete, utter, embarrassing stupidity. A three-word blurb has become so important that candidates are making up descriptions. Not because they are trying to trick people. It’s because people want to be tricked. They want to not care. They want to be “tough on crime”, whatever that means.
God forbid some criminal defense lawyer sneaks on to the bench. Or a white collar prosecutor. What we need are some good old-fashioned child molester prosecutors. Because those guys get the job done.
This is undermining the public’s faith in the justice system? How about our faith in the public? Are you all really so lazy you can’t be bothered to do the slightest bit of research before you cast your vote? As long as the “child molester prosecutor” get on the bench you are happy?
If you don’t care who you vote for beyond a three-word bullshit description, you deserve who you end up with. Think about that.