NZ’s Pathetic Judiciary Shows Why Judges Should Be Elected

The sentences that get handed out in New Zealand are embarrassing. First we had the comedian who got a light sentence because he "made people laugh", now we have the sentence discount for abusing children while being young and white. It’s a disgrace, and contributes to the ridiculous crime rates by ensuring a revolving door in our prisons.

In Texas, we don’t have that problem. County Judges are elected, and are very tough on crime as a consequence. This poor schmuck here in San Antone got sentenced to 35 years for simply pretending to be a cop to get some action. That’s twice as long as David Bain got for murdering his family. Now I don’t agree with this sentence either – it’s just as ridiculous as some of the light sentences doled out in New Zealand. But I’d rather have the problem of Judges being too tough, and living in a much safer place like Texas, than Judges failing to put people away, and live with the high odds of being a victim of crime that exist in New Zealand. It’s a much better problem to have.

There are strong arguments based on the New Zealand tradition of an impartial judiciary that is above politics, and that electing a Judge somehow cheapens the position and degrades the integrity of the position. However, I would argue that Judges who are appointed by the Queen/Attorney General already degrade their position by giving out these light sentences. And it is naive to say that the judiciary is above politics – every judicial decision is a political one based on the Judge’s jurisprudential philosophy. It is far better to simply have the argument in a public forum so that the public can decide what sort of justice system they want, what sort of jurisprudential philosophy they prefer, and who they want sitting in judgment of themselves and their fellow citizens. Having witnessed elections for Judges here, the system seems to work well.

In fact, I think one of the reasons why the US Supreme Court is such a broken institution is precisely because We The People have no say in who gets to sit on that Court. It is ridiculous to have Justices appointed at the whim of whomever happens to be President at the time – it actually politicises the Court even more. You get a situation where Justices will not retire unless they have a person of the same party in the White House. You also get Justices who get to sit on the bench because they are regarded as "non-controversial" and more likely to be confirmed by the Senate, but whose judgment is wishy washy. While an elected Supreme Court would still not be perfect, it would be more legitimate. You would reduce the likelihood of John Roberts changing his mind on healthcare, say, for simple political reasons. And it would give people a chance to vote on that big question that the American people currently have no say in: Should we view the Constitution as something that lives and breathes and evolves, or a document which must be applied exclusively as its framers intended?

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