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Crackpots on the Bench, Going and Possibly Returning

Good news from the Lone Star State.  Judge Kevin Fine, who wouldn't let a minor matter like higher court precedent on point get in the way of declaring the death penalty unconstitutional (see posts here and here), has resigned from the bench.  Brian Rogers has this story in the Houston Chronicle.

No so good news in the Pacific Northwest.  The primary election for Washington Supreme Court was a photo finish, but the people will now have a choice in the general election between a dyed-in-the-wool "true believer" defense zealot, Sheryl Gordon McCloud, or the return of the crackpot heckler they bounced last time, Richard Sanders.  See prior posts here, here, and here.  The bitter irony is that those who seek justice in the State of Washington are going to have to hold their noses and support The Heckler.

Which jurisdictions have the worst judges?  It appears to me that it's a close competition between those jurisdictions on the polar opposite ends of the selection method scale.  Appointment with life tenure gets us judges such as Stephen Reinhardt of the Ninth Circuit, who slip in when one party has a political lock and are then fixed for life.  States with purely electoral systems get crackpots such as Fine and Sanders.

The least-bad medium (if not necessarily happy) is appointment followed by yes/no retention elections, such as California has for appellate judges.  The people have only bounced appellate judges here once, but that was exactly when we should have, and the knowledge that one might be challenged induces a bit more caution and a bit less arrogance than we see on the federal bench.

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