Sunday, September 17, 2006

Debate over policy preferences has no place in judicial elections

Prof. Bill Andersen recently wrote an op-ed piece about the judicial election process: William R. Andersen, Debate over policy preferences has no place in judicial elections, Seattle P-I, Sept. 12, 2006:

The murkiest judicial campaigns are those in which this or that candidate is charged with being an 'activist' judge or is accused of 'legislating from the bench.' Such slogans cannot be meant literally. As to activism, the fact is we want judges to be activist in the sense of being vigilant in the protection of citizens' legal interests. And as to judicial legislating, if it can be done with a plausible interpretation of the text, we want judges to apply the law according to its obvious purpose even if the words chosen by the Legislature do not fully capture that purpose (the ordinance that prohibits 'vehicles' in the park should not be interpreted to bar baby buggies). When examined carefully, charges about activism and legislating usually mean only that the speaker is disappointed by the substantive outcome of a judicial decision -- a complaint that, for the reasons indicated, should be addressed to the Legislature.
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