When you go into the voting booth and open your ballot on June 5, you will be asked to vote for judges. You probably won’t be familiar with any the candidates running for a judgeship, either the incumbents or the candidates challenging the incumbents.
Judge Sanjay Kumar is such an incumbent running to keep his position in LA County’s Superior Court. He is being challenged by Kim Smith, an assistant city attorney in Hawthorne. Judge Kumar contends that though Smith has been designated “not qualified” by the LA County Bar association, his candidacy is viable because many voters will punch the bubble for a candidate with an Anglo sounding name over one with a foreign name.
Judge Kumar’s claims notwithstanding, this circumstance highlights that fact that most voters have no knowledge of these candidates or their qualifications. Initially electing judges would seem to be the best way to go. Appointments are subject to political influence, cronyism and powerful lobbying. But is electing judges we have never heard of any better?
How do you decide which judges to vote for? When voting for a judge you don’t know are you influenced by incumbency, last name, or professional affiliation?
Stanley Goldman, Professor of Law at Loyola Law School and Director of the Center for the Study of Law and Genocide at LLS.