January 28, 2008
HB 2150, the bill that would bring Washington its first meaningful judicial reform in 100 years, has been tabled by the House Rules Committee and is not scheduled for any action this session. Every attempt to reduce the influence of special interests in the selection of judges since the herculean efforts of the Walsh Commission in 1996 has been smothered by the special interests that would see their power reduced.
It is the task of the Rules Committee to schedule the bills that have made it out of committee for consideration on the floor of the house. Frank Chopp, the Chairman of the Rules Committee and the Speaker of the House, hails from the Fremont area of Seattle, which calls itself “the center of the universe.” It turns out that Fremont is also the nurturer of special interests and enemy of reform.
January 22, 2008
Apparently there are others who are appalled at the special interest money pouring into judicial elections, elections for judges who are supposed to be impartial. The primary purpose of the money that is lavished on judicial campaigns is to install judges who will not restrain the effects of the laws that lobbyists push through the state legislature. Special interests, by their attack campaigns on sitting judges and financing the campaigns of their acolytes seek to implant favoritism in the courts. The special interests that lobby their bills through the state legislature seek to have those same bills, when they become laws, reviewed by judges who are their delegates. Thus, these special interests are able to have laws passed by the legislature, then reviewed and interpreted by a court that is predisposed to support the interests behind the laws and which depends on the support of those special interests at the next judicial election.
This is a grievous distortion of the system the our forefathers envisioned. Such influence by special interests was abhorrent to Alexander Hamilton who viewed an independent judicial branch as essential to the protection of the rights of individuals from the “ill humors of designing men” and the minority party from the oppression of easily influenced popular sentiment. Lack of an independent judiciary would threaten the constitution and imperil our form of government Hamilton wrote in Federalist Paper No. 77.
Judges are supposed to different than congressional representatives in that our system of government depends on an independent judicial branch, free — to the extent possible — from the influence of lobbyists, special interests and generally the sway of money. That was the founding father’s purpose in making federal judges appointees for life. In Washington a State Supreme Court judge serves a 6 year term, a tenure short enough for the judge’s decisions to be influenced by concern for re-election.
Apparently I am not the only person who sees this as a threat to the notion that our government, through its check and balances between the three branches, was intended to be fundamentally fair. Washington State representatives Rodne, Sullivan, Sommers and Appleton have sponsored a bill to address this corruption of our system of government: HB 2150.