“Merit” selection, 101
July 20, 2011
Predictable as the sunrise, the Left is using unpleasant relations among Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices as a pretext for doing away with judicial elections—or put more bluntly, for terminating the people’s right to decide who they trust to serve as their judges.
Legislation to accomplish this has appeared in the form of a constitutional amendment. Coated with bipartisan camouflage paint, it’s already attracted favorable editorials from the kind of people who would prefer that their friends at the country club hand-pick judges, rather than let those unenlightened and unreliable voters have their say.
The bipartisan pedigree is not an endorsement but a warning sign. As so often happens, it signals that yet another booby trap has proven irresistible to a Republican who imagines that the key to GOP success is to behave in ways that please Democrats. State Senator Dale Schultz—last seen casting the sole Senate Republican vote in opposition to the Governor’s collective bargaining reforms—seems organically incapable of shedding the belief that Republican participation transforms bad ideas into good ones.
On the other hand, introduction of a constitutional amendment sets up the prospect of serious and extensive debate. Amending the state constitution requires approval in two legislative sessions with an election in between, and then in a statewide referendum.
There will be ample time to explore what’s beneath the deceptively appealing surface of so-called “merit selection” for judges.
The most important thing about merit selection is who does the selecting, and if you’re thinking Scott Walker, think again. In states
with merit selection, governors of either party are typically stuck with a short list of choices served up by panels of (uniformly liberal) lawyers.
That’s just one of the many reasons to shun this bogus “reform.”