Why Better Courts Now isn’t better at all

As a concept, it is a good idea to have organizations draw attention to often over-looked judicial races. It raises important questions about whether judges should be elected since it makes them subject to the very political process the Founding Fathers sought to insulate them from. But the organization Better Courts Now is not a non-partisan think tank designed to bring information to the people about judicial candidates, nor is it a “group of ordinary citizens … rising up to preserve democracy” as Baptist Pastor Chris Clark claims. To the contrary, the organization is the antithesis of an effort to preserve democracy. It is instead a group of religious ideologues attempting to shake the very foundation of impartiality that currently exists in the San Diego judiciary. The irony of the organization is their alleged claim to combat “judicial activism”, when in fact their ideology as a group is to tear down what they view as an overly liberal or progressive judiciary. Better Courts now is not about impartiality at all, and they make no bones about that, having put forth a slate of unqualified judicial candidates to carry their political flag to the bench.

An impartial analysis of judicial candidates is conducted by the Judicial Evaluation Commission of the San Diego County Bar Association. The JCE was created in 1978 to fill the information gap that existed around the qualifications of judicial candidates. The Commission is made up of a cross-section of the San Diego County Bar as appointed by the President of the SDCBA. There well may be room for a similar evaluation process by non-members of the SDCBA, but impartial analysis is clearly not what Better Courts Now is here to do. They are nothing more than a bank of candidates with a strikingly narrow viewpoint, who have a history of attacking particular judges when they disagree with those judges’ rulings. The brazenness and transparency of this political challenge to impartiality are staggering.

It is important to dialogue about the qualifications of our judges, including those not currently running for office. But let’s do it by actually evaluating those qualifications, gathering impartial and non-partisan information about our judicial officers and those running for judicial office. The SDCBA is a respected organization that does that work, but it certainly would not hurt to have another group that is a conglomeration of non-lawyers and non-members of the SDCBA make that effort as well. San Diego is America’s Finest City and it will be made that much finer by adding helpful information to our election cycle, particularly as it pertains to our judges, who decide what our laws mean and who have such a profound effect on our lives.

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