Mt Soledad
Welcome to the
Christian Citizenship Council
of San Diego
San Diego
“When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan.” (Prov 29:2)

“Judges Denied”

Our representative form of government is both a blessing and a curse in many ways.  On one hand we have the duty and privilege to select godly candidates to serve in public, elective office.  We can hold them accountable by directly meeting with them, writing to them, or exercising other means to influence their decisions to do what is right.  We can also, theoretically, remove them from office in the next election cycle if need be.  This process, right or wrong, broken or wonderful, has served us since the founding of our nation for both the executive and legislative branches of government, as well as the governance and policy domains of local government. 

But, what about the judicial branch?  We all can point to egregious examples of Federal judges literally legislating from the bench.  We read about Superior court, appellate, State Supreme Court judges, etc. that have thwarted common sense rulings of lower courts or flat out pushed an agenda that was ungodly, perverse, and sometimes just plain inane.  I’m not ignoring the thousands of decisions that are right and proper, but in reality those accomplish what we expect them to.  The decisions I’m referring to can have devastating, negative impacts upon our families, our schools, our business, our Constitutionally guaranteed freedoms, and our very lives (remember Terri Schiavo).  It goes beyond even this; poor decisions, ones that follow from a non-Biblical worldview of justice, can and do encourage and sometimes promote wickedness leading to the destruction of many lives (Prov 28:5).

What’s even more frustrating is when the will of the people is expressed in the initiative process, or good laws finally pass through the legislature, and then they are overturned by a single judge who “knows better” what the Constitution now means.   Not only are federal judges beyond our ability to influence or recall, locally elected Superior Court judges are virtually untouchable once in office, either through election or appointment.  The current Primary Election is a good example.  Of the 50 Superior Court positions that are up for election, only three are contested.  Two of these are for open seats, while one is a challenge to a sitting judge.  The other 47 are uncontested, that is, not one person was willing to run against an incumbent judge for a six-year term of office, and hence there is no election.  To add insult to injury, judicial candidates can hide behind the California Code of Judicial Ethics, which provides rules for the conduct of sitting judges, and judicial candidates during campaigns.  Though there is significant latitude in what information a candidate can provide, the Code can become a convenient excuse to not discuss judicial philosophy, religious beliefs, personal views on issues of major importance to us, etc. 

It gets worse.  Why are there no candidates willing to run against a sitting judge?  If you talk to attorneys the answer becomes obvious very quickly.  A judge is the absolute authority in a courtroom.  They control all proceedings and can make or break an attorney.  If a lawyer forces an election by challenging an incumbent judge, and then looses, they may very well be persona non-gratis if they ever face that judge in a courtroom.  There’s even some indication the judicial “community” may also treat that attorney differently as a result.  Basically, for the attorney that tried and failed to challenge an incumbent judge, their career may for practicality sake be over.  If true, this is an incredible indictment on our justice system – the “shunning” of professionals because they dared to seek an elective position to serve us all. 

Our system of checks and balances has failed us in some respects concerning judicial positions.  Rogue judges appear more commonplace than ever, and remain virtually untouchable.  This situation didn’t occur overnight, and it obviously won’t change overnight.  As Christians, we want judges to rule fairly and morally (Prov 17:15; 18:5), and know they are ultimately accountable to the Judge of the universe (Acts 17:31).  We want decisions that don’t create new categories of rights or allow evil to prevail.  It’s about time to start concentrating on finding as much about candidates in contested judicial races as possible, and to encourage qualified, godly attorneys to challenge incumbent judges that are failing us in their exercise of power.  Like politicians, poor judges would then be forced to defend their record and answer for times when justice was not served.

Are you up for this?  Are you willing to go the extra mile to campaign for solid candidates, or run against poor incumbents?  Without accountability what hope do we have of returning solid values to every branch of our government, including the judiciary?  What say you?

- Frank Kacer

First published as a Guest Commentary in the June 2006 issue of Good News Etc.