A Republican minority and later majority denounced litmus tests for judicial appointments. With Miers’s nomination the coagulated veneer keeping conservative factions together cracked almost overnight. Conservative “elites” are put off by an ostensibly absent judicial philosophy throughout her career. Despite a 1989 questionnaire and colleagues vouching that Miers will vote Roe
down social conservatives peevishly behave like they want a promise etched in stone. The White House strategy hasn’t helped. Slate’s
court correspondent Dahlia Lithwick tracks the many faces of Harriet Roe
In the same vein, another Slate article
follows up on Harriet’s questionnaire starting with a 2002 USSC decision “forc[ing] states to loosen... rules" that "prevent judicial candidates from campaigning like ordinary politicians” in light of judicial ethics codes (Republican Party of Minnesota v. White
). Scalia agreed with the majority, writing "[E]ven if it were possible to select judges who did not have preconceived views on legal issues, it would hardly be desirable to do so."
According to the article “87 percent of America’s 11,000 state judges” are elected into office and “smart interest groups immediately used White
to begin demanding public answers from reluctant judges.”
In the wake of White, questionnaire answers are also helping determine which judicial candidates can tap into big money, powerful endorsements, and platoons of grass-roots support: In a single Illinois Supreme Court race last year, candidates raised $9.3 million—exceeding 18 of 34 U.S. Senate races—much of it from lawyers and interests with cases before the court.
Some of the questions judges receive include:
Are you a born again Christian? Please give your testimony.
What actions have you personally taken on the issue of pro-life?
In 2000, Alabama's Christian Coalition asked all judicial candidates to agree
with the following statement: "Leaving aside entirely the relevant U.S. Supreme Court and/or Alabama Supreme Court precedent about the legal status of an unborn child, I as an individual believe that an unborn child is a fellow human being, imbued with a soul by its Creator."
Idaho's Christian Coalition pressed would-be judges
to agree with their statement that "God's Laws or Natural Laws have a high[er] authority than laws enacted by the United States Congress or the Idaho Legislature"; that "the United States Constitution is Christian-based"; and to agree to display the Ten Commandments in their courtroom.
A 2003 Pennsylvania Catholic Conference survey asked judges to state positions on abortion, cloning, stem-cell research, gay adoption, and insurance coverage for contraceptives
The anti-tax Nevadans' Judicial Information Committee
included a boilerplate question about the public-service records of potential judges but cautioned that "too much 'feeding at the public trough,' however, may sometimes bias a candidate's philosophy toward 'public' rather than 'private' solutions to society's problems."
In Kentucky, the state high court will allow “campaign statements that appear to commit judges to positions in advance of a case being heard.”
Questions for debate:1. Does holding judges accountable to the people through elections have a positive, negative, or no affect on an independent judiciary?2. Do parties endorse, defend, or at least accept the idea that judges should rule based on the law and merits of the case before him/her and not on his/her personal feelings of the case?3. If you answered yes to #2 or give YOUR party kudos, how do questionnaires gauging a judge’s personal feelings on everything from a religious experience (or lack thereof) to abortion uphold the public’s perception that our justices set their beliefs aside on the bench?4.
We’re used to politicians saying/promising anything to special interests to get elected. Are these questions inappropriate when applied to the judiciary?