By Elaine Magliaro
John Oliver took on the subject of electing judges on Last Week Tonight on Sunday. In most states, judges are elected–not appointed–“forcing many judges to pander to the electorate and accept campaign money in order to keep their jobs.” Oliver talked about judges “shaking down lawyers” for campaign contributions and using money from super PACs to produce campaign ads. Oliver said, “The problem with an elected judiciary is sometimes the right decision is neither easy nor popular, and yet campaigns force judges to look over their shoulder on every ruling.”
Forest Wickham (Slate) said that the system of electing judges “often leads judges to solicit money from attorneys and defendants they might see later in court, and all in order to pay for campaign ads that frequently have nothing to do with the judges’ actual qualifications.”
Melissa Locker (Time):
The problem with an elected judiciary, according to Oliver, is that when it comes to judging people, the right decision is sometimes unpopular and unpopular decisions and elections are uneasy bedfellows. In fact, academic studies have shown that judges change their behavior in election years issuing harsher sentences to appear tough on crime. In Oliver’s opinion, that is unfair. Legal rulings, he said, should not be based on popular opinion but on rational jurisprudence.
Oliver concluded his segment by saying: “Faith in a strong independent judiciary is essential to a civilized society. Without it, we’re settling disputes either in Thunderdomes or via The Purge. If we’re going to keep electing judges, we may have to alter our idea of what justice is. In fact, at the very least, in order to be more representative, we should tweak the blindfolded lady holding scales to put a tip jar in her hand and give her a fucking winking emoji for a face.”
Watch John Oliver Rant About Corruption Behind Elected Judges (Rolling Stone)