Why America’s Judges should be Chosen by Citizen Juries

Simon Threlkeld has a new article in Dissident Voice, proposing that America’s judges be chosen by randomly sampled judicial selection juries.

Judges should not be chosen by popular vote, nor by politicians. Both approaches are undemocratic and deeply flawed, perhaps even absurd … A far better option is for judges to be chosen by juries drawn from the public by random selection.

[…]

The problem with choosing judges by popular election is not that it puts the choice in the hands of the people, but rather that it fails to do so, or does so very badly and inadequately. Fortunately, judicial selection juries provide a remarkably good and informed way for the people to choose judges.

In a democracy the people are the rulers, and are the highest and most legitimate authority, not politicians and political parties, nor the rich interests that fund their electoral victories. For this reason, the judiciary should be chosen by the people, not by politicians. All that is needed is a good informed way for the people to choose judges, something judicial selection juries can provide.

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5 Responses

  1. Very topical (in the light of Trump’s remarks yesterday)!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Simon,

    I very much agree that the judicial authority should be democratic. However, shouldn’t the way to do this be to have justice by jury directly rather than justice by jury-appointed judges?

    Another matter: the judicial system enjoys much more confidence than elected politicians (certainly in the US, I believe elsewhere as well). Shouldn’t elected legislators be targeted for replacement before aiming at a more popular branch?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yoram:

    >justice by jury

    That would, rightly or wrongly, be perceived as mob rule, with the jury making up the law on the hoof. The existing judicial system makes a categorical distinction between matters of law (including the allocation of punishment) and deciding whether or not the accused is guilty or innocent.

    >Shouldn’t elected legislators be targeted for replacement before aiming at a more popular branch?

    The political nature of Supreme Court appointments is very much in the public eye at the moment and Simon is right to spot the opportunity for sortition.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yoram:

    >shouldn’t the way to do this be to have justice by jury directly rather than justice by jury-appointed judges?

    Though I am open to the idea of jury courts playing a role even at the highest rungs of the judiciary, I am not ready to try and make that case. Also, I suspect it might be hard to make a conclusive case for jury courts replacing or partly replacing professional lawyer-judges, and an uphill struggle against a long established tradition.

    Given that we are going to continue having lawyer-judges I of course think we need to choose them in an excellent democratic way, and that the case for using juries to provide that is extremely good. I think many people could agree with this, and see that popular vote and appointment by politicians are by comparison absurdly bad and inappropriate ways to choose judges.

    >Shouldn’t elected legislators be targeted for replacement before aiming at a more popular branch?

    These things can of course be done at the same time. The democratic reforms that are called for are broad, encompassing for starters all three branches of government. Also, I think that the undemocratic way judges are chosen is perhaps one of the weakest and least defensible links in the undemocratic system that is in place, and therefore perhaps democratic reform is more possible there than in some other places.

    The way judges are chosen in the U.S. has been debated for a long time, and is in a certain amount of flux, with various methods being used and debated. An approach that is fairly obviously much better may have a chance to win many people over, and even to be implemented at some point.

    Like

  5. Simon, I applaud your pragmatism!

    Liked by 1 person

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