John Oliver Digs into the “Bizarre” American Practice of Electing Judges

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.”


John Oliver digs into the “horrifying spectacle” of judicial elections (Salon)

Watch John Oliver Rant About Corruption Behind Elected Judges (Rolling Stone)

John Oliver Takes on the Bizarre American Practice of Electing Judges (Slate)

Watch John Oliver Take Elected Judges to Court (Time)

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4 Responses to John Oliver Digs into the “Bizarre” American Practice of Electing Judges

  1. amunre says:

    When John Oliver first came on I was prepared not to like him…but all I had to do was watch a couple of episodes of his program and I was hooked….On hearing that Jon Stewart was leaving his program my first thought was that would be a great gig for John Oliver

  2. Elaine M. says:


    Did you watch The Daily Show when Oliver filled in for Stewart for a few of months? He was great! I believe Oliver has already signed a contract with HBO for a couple more seasons. I doubt he’ll be taking over for Stewart.

  3. buckaroo says:

    A while ago, a Wisconsin appellate court held that the defendant physicians did not violate any substantive due process rights of the patients. There is no constitutional right to medical care from the government. 12/16/14

  4. pete says:

    I hate to say this, but if you go to 7:36 on the video Fat Tony looks like John Oliver after thirty years of too much wine and veal.

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