CHICAGO, Nov. 18, 2003 – The American Bar Association has published its new policy on judicial reform issues in the milestone report “Justice in Jeopardy,” which is being distributed to elected officials, bar association leaders and others around the country interested in improving state judicial systems.
“The ABA has adopted new policy that goes beyond merit selection, providing a framework for courts that are more diverse and better equipped to administer justice in the 21st century,” said Dennis W. Archer, president of the ABA.
Archer, a former justice of the Michigan Supreme Court who testified at one of the public hearings sponsored by the ABA Commission on the 21st Century Judiciary, has said state judicial issues will be among his top priorities during his term as president. The ABA House of Delegates, the policy-making body of the association, adopted the recommendations at its August meeting in San Francisco.
Two states – Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – had supreme court elections this fall, and 28 more states have supreme court elections scheduled in 2004.
The ABA’s preferred system of state court judicial selection is a commission-based appointive system, with the following components:
The governor should appoint judges from a pool of judicial aspirants whose qualifications have been reviewed and approved by a credible, neutral, non-partisan, diverse deliberative body or commission.
Judicial appointees should serve until a specified age. Judges so appointed should not be subject to reselection processes, and should be entitled to retirement benefits upon completion of judicial service.
Judges should not otherwise be subject to reselection, but should remain subject to regular judicial performance evaluations and disciplinary processes that include removal for misconduct.
The report also offers alternative recommendations on judicial selection, such as public financing of judicial campaigns, for those states that do not abandon judicial elections altogether.
The House of Delegates adopted other policies based on recommendations in “Justice in Jeopardy,” such as urging states to address the lack of diversity in state courts and to create independent commissions to establish judicial compensation. Archer also announced the formation of the Joint Commission to Evaluate the Model Code of Judicial Conduct.
The report and the new policies are available online at http://www.manningproductions.com/ABA263/finalreport.pdf. In addition, “Justice in Jeopardy” can be ordered from the ABA Service Center at 800-285-2221. (When ordering, refer to it by number PC#3970005.)
The American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership association in the world. With more than 405,000 members, the ABA provides law
school accreditation, continuing legal education, information about the law, programs to assist lawyers and judges in their work, and initiatives to improve the legal system for the public.
Editor’s note: Justice in Jeopardy, the ABA report calling for state judicial reform, now is available in book form. Journalists interested in a copy may contact Al Manning at [email protected] or 312/988-6131.