Michael Laybourn: Voting for Judges


I have always ignored the judge voting until I realized how the right wing has gotten control of America’’s judicial system, especially during the Bush II years. So this year I decided to go online and try to find out about some California judicial recommendations for this reason: On the state Courts of Appeal, you vote “yes” or “no.” If a majority says “no,” they are out of the office and the Governor must select a new judge. So I googled…

First of all, Google’s first page are 2 Christian recommendations, Tea party and other politically right recommendations for the top five. The next was the League of Women voters as follows:


Read the local newspaper for coverage of the campaign. Check editorials for their endorsements and reasons for their choices in the week before the election.

Check the sample ballot that all counties mail voters. It will list only the judicial candidates that you will be able to vote on at your polling place. Then turn to the section that prints statements submitted by nonpartisan candidates. Judicial candidates can, for a fee, put a 200 word statement in the sample ballot, and many of them do.

Call the county or State Bar Association. us counties do not usually evaluate judicial candidates.

Read the candidate’s own campaign literature.

Evaluate the campaign literature that is mailed to you from groups who are either endorsing or opposing certain judges.

Call the League of Women Voters to find out whether they have included judges in a public meeting or printed candidate’s guide.

Well that wasn’t much help.

The next site was the California Republican lawyers, then a site called Smart Girl Politics, which uses the Christian recommendations, meaning all right wing.

Then a site called California Voter Guide, which is all Republican.

The second page was 9 out of 10 right wing voter recommendation sites. What the hell is this? I didn’t have time to go to another page of sites, but it looks like the right wing has control over the voter recommendations on Google. All I wanted to do was get some information on judges.

Then I found some better information: Who appointed these judges.

_ Chief Supreme Court – Cantil-Sakauyb
A moderate Republican. Appointed by
_ Assoc. Supreme Court – Chin
A moderate Republican appointed by Pete
_ Assoc. Supreme Court – Moreno
Appointed by Gray Davis.
_ Presiding Appellate – Hill
Appointed by Schwarzenegger.
_ Assoc. Appellate – Detjen
Appointed by Schwarzenegger. Republican.
_ Assoc. Appellate – Poochigian
Appointed by Schwarzenegger. Conservative
_ Assoc. Appellate – Levy
Appointed by Pete Wilson. Republican.

My thinking: You will be wise to vote “No” on all judges unless you know something about them. Or, vote the opposite of right wing voting guides. The reason we have so many bad judges and they stay on the bench for their entire lives, is people go into the voting booth knowing nothing about them and vote “yes.” To do that is not wise. These people control too much of our lives.


I think voting no just because you don’t know anything about the judge is the wrong way to vote. If you don’t know anything about the judge don’t vote. Judges are better with experience and continually kicking out judges because you don’t know anything about them prevents judges from becoming good judges. If you really want to find about a judge google search: the judges name + decision + any issue that is important to you (e.g. civil rights, Clean Water Act, farm subsidies or controlled substances act). Read the decisions you find, then base your decision on how the judge applies the relevant law.

jonathan middlebrook October 27, 2010 at 10:07 am

Following my theme of distinguishing between voting and democracy, I wonder about Michael’s understandable yet perverse voting tactic.

Basically we know butkus about judicial candidates, and most of them don’t have the money to tell us about themselves. So they go to the usual sources: PACs, parties, Koch Inc. (And are you all informed about the candidates for State Board of Equalization?)

If all citizens–starting, say, at the county level–were randomly subject to 2 years’ legislative service, the false equation of mere voting with democracy would be eliminated.

The (pretty much by definition) representative legislature would develop & oversee the method of selecting judges (and dog-catchers).

–Until the grifters figure out how to subvert this lottery system, we’d have a period of representative democracy.

BTW, the grifters ALWAYS figure out how to subvert ANY given means to democracy. That’s what the sharp-edged phrase about water, blood & the tree of liberty is about.

It is true it is a gamble. If what”s her name becomes governor, she appoints the new judges. I might have too much fading faith that money, nothing but money, can buy the office. Still, if the right wing voters guide tells me to be sure and vote for what’s his name because he is really conservative and was appointed by a Republican, I guess I don’t have to look much further. I think that Jerry Brown will appoint better judges than Pete Wilson or the Governator.

    jonathan middlebrook October 30, 2010 at 11:43 am

    In my heart I know you’re right, Michael, about Jerry Brown and judges, and how to deal with our current election system. — I’m pushing an idea of systemic reform better to achieve representative democracy. Mendocino County, fortuitously, has about the right # of registered voters to try the Athenian approach, which was basically a lottery.

“If a majority says “no,” they are out of the office” What an idea. Suppose we had a system in which if no candidate got a majority for any office, the election would have to be rerun with new candidates. Anyhow, the election results are so unrepresentative because none vote but older, wealthier white people. How about requiring that a majority of eligible voters approve? Majority rule? What an idea. It wouldn’t be democracy, but a start. Just dreaming.