Are "elected" judges really a good idea?
I was just driving through town, and you can still see the “Vote Judge SoAndSo” signs hanging around everywhere. Then, it just so happens that I saw a documentary about that one judge in Texas punishing people with public humiliation walking a sign “I stole from WalMart” up and down the street.
It all made me wonder, shouldn’t judges be professionals practicing law, as opposed to politicians worrying about the next elections?
I see two particular problems:
a) Our legal system is a case law system, meaning laws only provide a framework, leaving a huge measure of discretion/prerogative to judges. This means, when someone gets “punished”, they only partially look at the law, and mostly towards how it’s been done before, case precedent. So previous cases strongly influence the outcome of new cases. What this means in all actuality is a whole lot of at times very unfair sentences. Unfair to the effect that the very same violation may lead to very different sentences, depending on the “Flavor of the month”. I’m having trouble expressing this right, I’m not a lawyer.
b) The constitution very clearly assigns the power to legislate to federal and state governments, not the courts. However, seeing that we have the aforementioned case law system combined with elected judges with this huge latitude given to them, de facto the people who vote influence the law, but not in the manner envisioned by the founding fathers.
Do you think that works out?
This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic.