08/25/05 — Appoint judges? Convoluted process has been proposed

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Appoint judges? Convoluted process has been proposed

In an 11th-hour move, the North Carolina General Assembly started pushing through a measure that would give the governor the authority to appoint appellate court judges and the chief justice of the Supreme Court.

The chief justice would have to be chosen from the sitting justices.

But the governor would be able to name the appeals court judges from among whomever he chose. They then would serve at least two years before they would be subjected to a vote of thepeople.

However, the vote would not be between an appointed judge and an opponent. It would be simply on whether to confirm the sitting appointee for a subsequent full eight-year term.

Meaning, the appointed judge would be running for election against no one.

Rep. Skip Stam, a Republican from Apex and one of the writers of the bill, feels the measure would improve the selection of judges but still give the voters the “final say.”

Such proposals in the past have been couched in arguments that they would “take politics” out of the selection of judges.

That was a ridiculous argument.

No individuals in the state are more conscious of politics than those who have served or aspire to serve as governors. They know where the support money is to be found and they know the people who represent the political clout in the General Assembly and in counties across the state. More often than not they are beholden to many of them.

And their decisions are couched in consideration of the wishes — pressures? — of these people.

The present system is not perfect. But we are not going to get politics out of the selection of judges. A direct vote of the people would appear to be the best, cleanest and most democratically sound route.

Fortunately, changing the process would itself have to be subjected to a vote of the people since it involves changing the state Constitution.

Published in Editorials on August 25, 2005 10:46 AM