Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Wanted: Better Judgment, Fewer Crowd-Pleasers and Lickspittles

Should judges be elected or appointed? In the case of international courts, this age-old conundrum has a new twist.

From The Economist:

Barack Obama wasn’t the only person selected by American voters this month. They also cast ballots for thousands of state-court judges, after expensive, rancorous campaigns. No other nation in the world chooses judges by this stirringly democratic method, as Sandra Day O’Connor—the first woman to sit on the Supreme Court—has noted. In her view, that is because most countries know “you’re not going to get fair and impartial judges that way.”

Barring a few Swiss cantons, the elevation of judges by popular vote is indeed rare. But in international tribunals, from the International Court of Justice (better known as the World Court) to the European Court of Human Rights, judges are typically elected—albeit by national representatives, not popular franchise. And as with the American system, there is no guarantee that such ballots will produce individuals who are qualified or honest. As a result, decisions affecting millions of lives can be taken by questionable people: “government hacks and lickspittles, with little or no judicial experience, who have demonstrated their loyalty to their governments by defending the unconscionable,” as one human-rights lawyer puts it.

Full story here.

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