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Courts & Elections: Incompatible Values? Issues affecting the independence of the judiciary
California Judges Association, Commonwealth Club, Etc. (2020)
  • Curtis E.A. Karnow
This document collects notes and resources on the impact of politics, specifically elections, on the judiciary.   
The first part focuses on a 2018 contested judicial election in San Francisco (involving the author) and outlines a series of ethical and related issues which that election and other judicial elections pose.  It is presented in outline and abbreviated form. This part distinguishes elections which do not challenge an incumbent from elections (and recalls) which do; and while the focus is on the second type, many of the comments relate to both. 
This first part questions the extent to which values of an independent judiciary are furthered or undermined by elections. It suggests a variety of meanings for the term “independent judiciary,” recognizes the value of accountability, which some contend is furthered by elections.  It briefly summarizes the history of California’s election of trial judges, contrasting the process applicable to members of the appellate and supreme courts.  It outlines some solutions including actions judges and lawyers may take.  
The second part of this document (at pages 22 ff.) collects background materials such as quotes, studies and articles on judicial independence as a function of elections, the impact of elections on perceptions of judicial independence, the relationship between independence and funding of judicial elections, and discussions of alternatives to elections (such as the federal model under Article III of the US Constitution).
  • judges,
  • election,
  • recall,
  • politics,
  • judiciary,
  • ethics,
  • independence of judiciary
Publication Date
Summer 2020
San Francisco
Citation Information
Curtis E.A. Karnow. "Courts & Elections: Incompatible Values? Issues affecting the independence of the judiciary" California Judges Association, Commonwealth Club, Etc. (2020)
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