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Judicial elections Raymond A. Warren has precisely identified the evil of electing judges-money. [ NLJ, 12-12-05]. However, having written on this topic many times as a former chair of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Commission on Judicial Selection and Retention, a member of the Magistrate Judge Merit Selection Panel for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and a one-time candidate for the bench in Pennsylvania, I believe that there is much merit to the process of electing judges which inures to the benefit of the citizenry and to the presiding judge in the trial courts of our states. It does bring a certain sense of “equal branch of government” to the other elected branches. Further, meeting the public while campaigning is an absolute plus to help provide insulation from “black robe disease.” This is the court level that affects most ordinary and widespread claims for the average citizen. Getting to know the diversity of one’s citizenry is a very valuable tool. That’s not to say that appointed judges are devoid of this insight. In Pennsylvania, we had appointments to the trial court in the 19th century and, because of corruption in that process, we changed to the election of judges, believing we could rid the judicial system of that evil. What we now know is that every system has a finite life after which we must make a change. Accordingly, I would offer a third way to make that change: public financing of judicial campaigns-no fundraising from the very people we will need to pass judgment on. It is a better solution than “merit,” which is just another euphemism for letting the political world completely usurp the role of the citizenry. Can we honestly assert that the elected members of the judiciary are without merit? It would seem that this may be an alternative that saves the best of the election process from the worst part of it without doing harm to our prized way of preserving democracy for this co-equal branch of government. I would add that the appointment process needs to be improved by putting far more emphasis, across the board-from lawyering to candidacies-on the ethics of the appointee or nominee. Finally, we can’t demand “reform” for selecting judges while failing to demand as much from our future lawyers. We need to have a periodic reaffirming of our oath as lawyers before a judge. Yes, it is time for a better system for the legal profession and the judiciary-whether appointed or elected. Arline Jolles Lotman Philadelphia

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