Minnich: Judges have political agendas

Judges are lawyers with ambition. They are aware of money, wealth, power, status.

The black robes are supposed to signify that they put all that aside when they sit in judgment. But few get a chance to be judge without running up a tab.


So, when I hear people talking about choosing jurists who will be always without bias in their considerations on the bench, I squirm a little in my chair and wonder how we could believe that the findings and ultimate sentence will be without a political trail.

In the current choosing of a new member of the Supreme Court, there is little secret that the elected ones in Congress have strong opinions about the qualifications of the president’s nominee.

At the same time, they pretend to be dedicated to ensuring that the intellect, experience, education and reputation of one who would rule on the constitutionality of cases brought to the nation’s highest court is without blemish.

Well, good luck with that.

In local elections across the nation, the same processes will be taking place to lock into place the occupants of the judicial benches. Voters will be asked to pretend that the ethics, standards and strategies of those seeking judgeships are different from those whose public image ranks among the least admired professions in America.

Now that they want to be a judge, they will not be like, well, what they might have been like before they were first sworn to the bench.

But how do you get to be a judge? For the most part, you get appointed by the top politician from the party that won the last election. The recommendations come from party members, who of course have a political agenda. That’s why they fight so hard to get their person into the governorship, or the presidency. They want their guy — so far, it’s guys — to choose who will fill out the term of a departing judge and keep their noses clean long enough to be elected for virtually life by a somnolent and largely disengaged electorate.

Oh, but the bar association weighs in on the nomination, often presents candidates for appointment to unfinished judicial terms, some might point out.

What higher source of praise can a lawyer get than an endorsement by a lot of other lawyers? And when was the last time you heard of the local bar association taking out a full-page ad in the paper or going on camera on the 7 o’clock news to point out the lack of suitability for a sitting, albeit appointed, judge running to continue on the bench?

The current system is time-honored and traditional now. But it serves the legal practitioners and the politicians more than it serves the public. They have each other’s back.

The average citizen wants to be assured that the rules in court will not change from one case to another because of social status, wealth, partisan affiliations, or allegiance to business over the general population.

My personal experience has been that Republican lawyers get appointed to open seats by Republican governors or presidents to preserve Republican values. And Democrat lawyers get nominated to be on the ballot at election time for the same reason.

Republicans tend to be pro-development, pro-big business (not so much small business) and Democrats tend to favor the interests of people without a big pile of money behind them. They also have an unfortunate tendency to sometimes be more idealistic than pragmatic.

Pragmatic is good when it’s on a leash but left to run it eats everybody else’s lunch. The question is, when you go before a judge, do you want one whose life’s work up to the appointment to the bench was preserving the bankrolls of the big spenders, or one whose values were to ensure that even the little guy has a chance for justice?


What was the reason why the judge wanted the job?

When you vote, it would be nice to know the answer to that.