Jerry Summers: Elected Or Appointed Judges

  • Saturday, March 30, 2024
  • Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers

The eternal question still exists today in America as to whether our country is best served by having appointed judges or those selected by the voters, usually with four- to eight-year terms, in the 50 state judicial systems. Federal judges are appointed for life by the President upon the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate with the privilege of making the nomination for the office usually being given to the ranking senator, or representative of the political party in the White House.

The decision as to how a state or federal judge is selected or retained is much more complex than the two short paragraphs stated above.

The current legal dilemmas that former president Donald J. Trump finds himself in has rekindled the political flames surrounding both the elected and appointed processes.

The subject of the guilt/innocence of the 2024 presidential Republican nominee is beyond the scope of this article.

Proponents and opponents of both methods of selecting judicial officials have a long history of good/bad examples that has affected the fabric of Democracy.

Though designed to create a separate and independent third branch of government, many political factors often enter into the selection.

The maxims, “the best judges make the worst politicians and the worst judges make the best politicians,” has some applicability to arguments for/against both procedures. The placing of a black robe on an individual and the authority that goes with it is a powerful proposition whose results may not be determined until after the nominee/victor ascends the judicial dais and receives the platitudes of a grateful or fawning public and lawyers over time.

The history of judges in Tennessee is filled with the names of the vast majority of men, women, Democrat/Republican judges who have served the Volunteer State’s citizens honorably. Unfortunately, there have been a minority group who have stained the black robes of justice with either improper judicial or personal misconduct to those supporting the process of elected judges and the state courts.

The admonition that we will just vote them out of office when their term expires is also not that simple. The power of being a judicial incumbent normally gives a substantial advantage. Today the expensive campaigns short of a disastrous personal situation, controversy, or judicial decision favor the current judicial officers. The added benefit of lifelong tenure for a federal judgeship was designed to give judicial independence to the selected members of that body subject only to impeachment for serious acts of misconduct.

Their standards and both categories of elected versus appointed judges will continue to provide controversial rhetoric along with Donald J. Trump's pending lawsuits and indictments in both systems in 2024.

(Disclaimer: the comments in this article are designed to present the difference in the selection process of state and federal judges and not to suggest any preference for the pluses or minuses of either system.)

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