Why Do Judicial Elections Matter?


We all know elections are important. Many people wonder, however, whether their vote actually makes a difference, especially in national and big state-wide races. Even when people do vote they may not pay attention to the names on the bottom of the ballot – the candidates running for city and county commission, and judge.

Aren’t judges supposed to be fair and impartial no matter what? So does it even matter who gets elected judge?

The answer to both those questions is an emphatic yes. When people vote they don’t realize the direct and personal impact a local judge can have on their lives. If you are accused of a crime, file for divorce, have an issue with the custody of your children, or are involved in a lawsuit, the judge sitting on your case was probably once on your ballot.

A good judge is supposed to be fair and impartial, meaning that they don’t favor one side of a case or another. Judges are supposed to rule on cases based only on the facts as applied to the law. They aren’t supposed to let their personal preferences, likes, dislikes, or beliefs interfere with their decisions.

So why do judicial elections matter so much? Because we need (and are legally entitled to) a fair and just group of judges deciding cases.

What we don’t need are some of the judges we’ve seen over and over in the news recently.

We don’t need judges that punish someone for not responding to a Facebook friend request.

We don’t need judges who can be bribed through campaign contributions into delivering favorable opinions for big corporations.

We don’t need judges who get into fistfights with attorneys in the hallway outside the courtroom.

We don’t need judges who show up to work drunk or stoned (or both).

Personally I have yet in my practice to come across a bad judge or one who I thought was being unfair or biased. In Tampa we are lucky to have a good group of judges that rule based on the law, and not on  anything else.

Bad judges are few and far between, but they can make a big impact when they happen to be on the bench. Maybe some of these behaviors weren’t known before these judges were elected. Maybe. But if voters start taking a close look at judicial candidates, maybe, just maybe, we can weed some of these bad judges out before they take the bench.