Watching the process of selecting our newest addition to the United States Supreme Court reminded me of how we do it in Washington State. We have the right (and the obligation) to elect our judges here in Washington. In the federal system, we sit by and watch the President pick our judges and observe the circus we call Congress, or more specifically, the Senate, go through its confirmation process. From the Supreme Court all the way down to the local Federal District Court, judicial vacancies are filled by lifetime appointments. I’m not saying this is necessarily bad. But, contrast this with the State of Washington, where we elect our judges. For better or worse, our trial court judges are elected by you and me. Our appellate court judges are also elected, including seats on our highest court, the Washington State Supreme Court.
We can debate the advisability of electing our state judges (and we will on a future edition of Legal Line with Bob Pittman), but the reality is that we will be voting in a handful of days on judges across the state. These are people who affect our everyday life. These are people who can decide whether you win or lose a very real lawsuit you find yourself in. These are people who could send you to prison. These are people who could decide on the status or your marriage, your partnership, and whether you live or die. Who will you vote for? What information do you have? How will you decide? Too little information exists about judicial candidates. Too few questions are asked of judicial candidates. Before you send in your ballot or go to the polling place, do a little homework. Ask people you know and trust who they are voting for and why. Call an attorney and quiz her about the election. Most attorneys are happy to discuss what they think is important and who they think will do the best job. Become informed and vote. It is a solemn obligation.