All posts by ed47

Voting for Judges (or, The Hon. Bagel Lady)

(A bizarre result – promoted by SFBrianCL)

Voting for judges has to be another bizarre holdover from the Progressives: can anyone think of a good reason why we put judges on the ballot and have the public at large vote them in?  It’s always seemed to me like a quaint but generally harmless custom. Until now:

On Tuesday, incumbent Superior Court Judge Dzintra Janavs lost by 8 points to Lynn Diane Olson, best known as owner of a bagel shop.

Quick profiles:

Janavs is a former Assistant US Attorney and has 20 years on the bench.  She’s presently an assistant presiding judge in Writs and Recieving.  She’s been an adjunct professor at Loyola Law, and was rated “exceptionally well qualified” by the LA County Bar Association. She spent 42k on her campaign.

Olson owns a bagel shop in Orange County.  She reactivated her bar membership in December 2005 after a seven year hiatus.  She has, in the past, been an associate at Thelen Reid and Christensen Miller.  She was rated “not qualified” and spent about 100k on her campaign. Her husband, Michael Keegan, is a Hermosa Beach councilman.

I want to throw out two questions.

1. Why on earth do we have judges on the ballot? I consider myself an informed voter, but I’ve never known a damned thing about any judge on the ballot.  When I lived in LA, I did what the LA Times told me to do.  Now that I live in the Bay, I did some cursory research and voted for the guy who had the best endorsement package and qualification rating.  And let me note that the only times I ever saw the LA Times endorse a nonincumbent was when the incumbent was patently unfit for office (falling asleep during trials, etc.) A hundred years ago, this probably made sense.  Now? Not so much.

2. The County Democratic Party backed Olson.  Because Janavs is a Republican.  I’m all for partisan politics when it comes to the Supremes and the Circuit Courts, but the Cal Superior Court? Seriously? And what is the party doing backing an unqualified bagel shop owner?

So, I guess my question is:

Am I the only one who thinks the idea of electing judges is foolish at best and harmful at worst?  And what would people think of (horror of horrors, I know) a constitutional amendment to change the way we pick judges in the state?

Note: I freely admit that it could be worse. This could be Texas, with full-blown judicial campaigns and not only campaigns in specific situations.