27 October 2004
Nineteen states, including Oklahoma, have a retention ballot for appellate judges: under the name of the court, the ballot reads, "Shall [judge's name] be retained?" The voter gets to choose Yes or No.
Dr. Bob Darcy, Regents professor of political science and statistics at Oklahoma State University, says that we don't know much of anything about the judges, but we vote to retain them as a measure of support for the judicial system.
Can anything be done? Should anything be done? Appointments for life will obviously remove the judges entirely from oversight by the electorate. The state bar maintains a Council on Judicial Complaints, but the Council's operations generally fly well under the public radar. Once in a while an interest group will try to stir up opposition to a judge who has issued a ruling unfavorable to them, but seldom does it make any difference: judges are routinely returned to office with about a 2-1 majority. Before I took up the mantle of Sort of Political Blogger, my own rule of thumb was to vote against anyone I'd ever heard of, on the basis that if the judge had somehow gotten into the news, it likely wouldn't have been good news.
Maybe there's a better way, but for the moment, I'm stumped.