Page:The Green Bag (1889–1914), Volume 25.pdf/160

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The Evil of Electing Judges for Short Terms To the Editor of the Green Bag: — Sir: I notice in the January issue of the Green Bag that the Chicago Bar is seriously discussing the advisability of electing their judges from a non-partisan judicial ballot. This agitation, I sus pect, has grown out of certain results of the election in that city on Novem ber 5 last. I also noticed some time ago, that one of Chicago's most popular and best equipped judges is about to retire from the bench on the ground that, in his opinion, it is only a question of time, under their system, when "politics will get him." That incident together with the proposed action of the bar and pub lic, suggested to my mind that it would not be a bad idea for Chicago and Illi nois Our to last comelegislature to Ohio and adopted learn athe lesson. socalled non-partisan judicial ballot, the purpose being to remove the bench not only from politics, but from those other selfish, subtle and dangerous influences that have crept into the judicial ser vice. The more observing and intelligent element in this community know that that law has failed of its purpose. In the last campaign for the election of judges for all the higher courts in this state, it is a well-known fact that parti san politics took a hand quite as effec tively as it ever did under the old sys tem. Party organizations unfurled the banner of their own nominees in utter defiance of the spirit and purpose of the statute, with the result that the domi nant organization, as a rule, came off a glorious victor.

Instead of having an independent judiciary as the people in all good faith intended, we shall have a judiciary dominated more or less by party organi zation and certain allied newspaper interests in plain and open violation of our so-called Corrupt Practice Act. There can be no such thing as an independent judiciary so long as we have the short elective system for our judges where the whims, prejudices and conceits of unprincipled, heartless dema gogues have selfish interests to subserve. There are, in my judgme.nt, just two ways to procure what every good citi zen desires — a fearless and able bench. Our judges must either be elected for a long period of years, say fifteen to eighteen, and ineligible for re-election, surrounded by certain safeguards to the public, providing for inefficiency or mis conduct (the ever-present recall), or they must be appointed by our Governor to hold their positions during good be havior, with like restrictions. New York State has in substance the former system and the judges of that state are an exceedingly able body of men. They are elected for a period of fourteen years and are paid salaries which not only permit them to live in comfort and in conformity to the dig nity of their office, but which permit them to save something for their declin ing years when they shall have retired to private life. The judges of the Supreme Court of that state, corresponding to the Com mon Pleas Judges of Ohio and the Dis trict Judges of other states, are elected for a term of fourteen years and