Elections better than activism

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Too often in Montgomery, decisions are made for the people of Alabama without their input.

We should have confidence in knowing that our state’s people can make important decisions. One of our most precious liberties is the right to vote.

During the past 200-plus years, many brave men and women have died to preserve that right.

We are disheartened to hear of efforts made by some in our state to strip the right to vote from the people of Alabama.

These people contend that Alabamians should have little, if any, say into the individuals who serve on our state’s highest courts.

For 137 years, Alabamians have been entrusted with the right to elect judges.

Though political parties may have changed, the people of Alabama have largely been a constant in what they wanted in their judges – conservative in thought, responsible in action, and morally sound.

In truth, people are not electing a ‘Democrat’ or a “Republican,’ instead, they are electing those individuals who most closely parallel their own personal values.

In recent years, Republican judges have most closely identified with the values of Alabamians.

For those who contend that appointing judges will take the politics out of our courts, we ask that they take a look at our state and nation’s history.

Partisan politics is obvious in the appointment process. An appointed judiciary serves only one purpose – to take the people out of the process.

At the federal level, our judges are already appointed – appointed for life.

In many cases, our courts have taken the role of legislator. Instead of interpreting the law, many judges are content on making law.

The issue of the Pledge of Allegiance is one of the most obvious when discussing the evolution of judicial activism.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled again that the Pledge of Allegiance which is an American tradition held sacredly for more than 50 years, is now somehow in violation of someone’s First Amendment rights.

This is a decision that clearly stepped beyond the judiciary’s ‘interpretive’ function.

In the end, the federal judiciary has become a super-branch of government – always trumping the legislative and executive branches.

We contend that such a powerful judiciary is not a good thing.

In every case of judicial activism, the powers of state government have been stripped and the role of our nation’s leaders has been reduced.

Instead of moving toward such a powerful judiciary at the state level, we should demand that those elected to make laws have that power.

Elections hold judges accountable for their actions.

In the real world, we are all accountable for our specific actions judges should be no different.

In the coming weeks and months, much will be made about the need for an appointed judiciary. Arguments will be made against having judges go through the election process.

Will this move really make the judiciary more responsive and less political?

The answer is no – an appointed court dilutes the will of the people, serves to interject a new level politics into our judicial system, and makes the courts less accountable.

Cam Ward and Mike Hill serve as state representatives representing Shelby County