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Local Politics 101: Why Do We Elect Judges?

April 3, 2018 1:32 p.m.

Local Politics 101: Why Do We Elect Judges?


Carl Luna, political science professor, San Diego Mesa College and University of San Diego

Related Story: Local Politics 101: Why Do We Elect Judges?


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

>> There are many resources available to help you find out about the candidates, and the issues and the upcoming primary and midterm elections in fact we will be starting our own candidate interviews very soon here on Midday Edition but there are fewer places that answer nuts and bolts questions about the elections. That is what we are hoping to do as our series San Diego politics 101 continues. Mesa College political science professor and commentator, Carl Luna joins us again. Hi Carl.
>> Hi, good to be here.
>> Here is today's question. I am a teacher in San Diego, my question is, why do we elect judges here? Lots of municipalities and states don't do that, so what is the advantage? It seems like the situation where electing judges would be ripe for a situation of conflict of interest and give the appearance of a quid pro quo.
>> Okay Carl, why do we elect judges?
>> The short of it is because we do. We have done for over 150 years. If you allow elected officials like governors to appoint judges, will they then control the judges? Most states, 40 states pretty much, it's they let the voters pick the judges so they will not be upholding to the other elected officials. Part of the checks and balances system so most of the states to this, the federal government does this and in California, it is a mix of courts. Eventually they get to vote on them,
>> There are 47 Superior Court judges, why so many?
>> That's just on the blocks for this election cycle, we have something over 100 different apartments because the of the North County, the South County, downtown, family services, traffic court, they will all the human is a pull cord judges into the Superior Court about 20 years ago. So, actually, it sounds like a lot but it's a couple hundred judges serving the needs of 3 million people. You go to a small county like Alpine California. They have a couple dozen people that each judge represents, here, they have to take care of 12,000 people. I think they consider themselves overworked and probably need more judges.
>> Now, most of the judges have only one candidate on the ballot, what is the point of voting. In those races per
>> You want to at least pay attention to who they are, the rule of thumb for voting on that is, if you know they are, they probably have gotten into trouble. They haven't gotten into trouble, they're just doing their job, they are elected as a judge. They're going to say yes to them, their return rate is pretty high.
>> So, speaking of judges, that got into trouble, Judge Gary Krieg is running for reelection. He has five people running for the seat. Is that due to the controversy surrounding this judge?
>> Not entirely. People know his name. If there is that name, there is controversy. What they represent, is the use of local elections for you have a targeted conserve the group and part of trying to grab a seat and now there is one other contestant race or somebody had been associated with them in the past is also running for a judge seat. You are seeing this in other parts of the country much more than here. The money is pouring into judicial seeds. That's not really the case in California yet, but you might see more of it as everything becomes politicized.
>> Now, Judge Kriegel is given the state judicial discipline agency for misconduct, and lack of judicial temperament, how is a voter going to find out stuff like that?
>> Again if you have a propyl like that you will find it by googling the judges name of the candidate's name for judge Craig, he had been part of the bench, that's controversy right there. For the most part if you're going to be candidate for the judiciary you have to be a lawyer but for the California bar. So, that's one of the other reasons why judges always whenever they are contested it's going to be a judges versus a lawyer and we all hate lawyers so we will do it for the judge forgetting that all the judges or lawyers. Two are judges prohibited from running active campaigns?
>> They cannot run partisan campaigns, these are all races, California is the big thing we changed in nearly over the century was bipartisan races. Here for the most part, you don't really think that much about the partisanship of a judge, but there have been a couple of campaigns in recent years that raised eyebrows and some oversight that they were too political.
>> Judges do still raise money for their campaigns though, right?
>> Yeah, judges can still raise money. They are still subjected to restrictions on who they can get it from. And again, the tradition is, you're not supposed to use it and an overly negative way. The barber judges on what they should do for campaigns is much higher than what we hold other elected officials too. They're supposed to advance their own image but not attack their opponents.
>> Now, only two of the 47 races judges races this year have more than one candidate, if I am going to vote on a raise for a judges seat, how do I go on about evaluating the candidates?
>> You look at the candidates and you do the Google if you want to find out anything. If they have anything in the Union Tribune or the voice of San Diego, you can get background on them. All the candidates for elected office. For the most part again, of those 47 races on the ballot this time, 45 are clearly going to win the 46 probably, the only one that may be problematic is judge grief.
>> Are there any assessments made by the local bar association about whether a candidate is fit to be a judge?
>> You will hear way and and you can find those also online. You will see in the Union Tribune. The political parties will also weigh in kind of sort of, but most of the time they do leave these off. A couple of Democrat and Democratic parties, but that's independent of their campaigns per
>> I have been speaking with San Diego Mesa College political science professor Carl Luna. We will continue, we are asking your listeners that if there's anything you have been wondering about, concerning local politics, local elections, or why the process works the way it does, please email us. At KPBS Midday Edition at thank you Carl.
>> Thank you.