Judge Candidates

Update 01/18/10

Memento te mortalem esse" --Remember, thou art mortal; a reminder to victorious Roman Generals

Objection: Sustained

Some readers have contacted the Prospect objecting to the claim by candidates for judge that they can’t answer questions because they "might look prejudiced."

Objection Sustained.

The censorship of questions for judicial candidates stems from a cultural mythology that judges are impartial. The whole ceremony of court, with each person sitting in their special place, and the formal dress, ritual language, it’s all intended to cause us to be in awe of the judge and willing to comply with the judge’s ruling. That kind of ceremony used to be convincing, but this is the 21st century, and we’re wise to that. We’re not ordaining a minor deity, we’re hiring a bureaucrat.

Clearly, a candidate shouldn’t answer a question like "if my cousin gets busted for pot will you put him in jail?" for several reasons.

But, to be asked if you favor the legalization of cannabis is a fair question.


First of all, as attorneys you should know that everyone has opinions. Expressing an opinion on cannabis legalization as a candidate is certainly less indicative of a bias than the clients and cases you’ve taken in the past. If an attorney wanted to call BS on your objectivity, why would they go to a campaign response, which are often hyperbole anyway, when they could show that you took concrete actions as an attorney or prosecutor?

Further, judges might insist they’re somehow unbiased, but we know very well they aren’t; as humans they simply can’t be. They might do their best to leave their personal feelings out of a case, as they should, but it simply isn’t possible to stop being who you are, and we have a right to know who you are.

Show us precedent, show us statute. Where is it illegal to answer general questions on current topics? Where was a judge disqualified, or a mistrial granted because the judge had answered a question as a candidate, and not a "would you put O.J. Simpson in prison" question, but a "do you believe Blacks commonly get the same justice as Whites" question.

Isaac Parker, the Hanging Judge of Ft. Smith, Arkansas. Looks like a nice enough fella.

Most of us understand that the judge has far less power to make judgements than in the past. In some instances, the judge is little more than a highly qualified administrator, taking actions called for by law and using very little judgement. We won’t expect a judge to let everyone busted for pot free if she or he believes cannabis should be legal. We expect them to try each case on its merits under the law as it is.

Finally, you candidates are supposed to be skilled attorneys, and yet you can’t answer a question without saying something? If you get the judgeship without that skill, how will you recognize a scoundrel? What if you fail at the judgeship and decide to run for the assembly, how will you ever get by?

If successful, you’ll be sending us to rehab and our children to foster care; we have a right to know who you are.

Just answer the question, Candidate.

New Question from a reader: Do you favor the legalization of marijuana?

An important article on asking candidates for judge questions:


Dodging questions as a judicial candidate

Judicial Candidates may answer questions

If we lived in Ohio, this would be the preference of Ohio Judges, with appropriate questions:

What Other People are Asking Their Judge Candidates:




Tough on Crime Judges Candidates

There are five people with papers out for judge, and several of them have already been working the county. That’s good news for us. With so many suitors for our votes, we can make them work a bit.

Our votes are the magic that turn a lawyer, often placed below Cymothoa exigua
on the social scale of respectability, into a wise, just, honorable judge.


Cymothoa exigua, a fish tongue eating isopod (louse) For more, go HERE

Here are questions the Prospect sent to all five potential candidates for judge.
Why should a candidate answer these ten thousand questions? The question is, why should we hire you for judge?

This position carries remarkable power over our people; to undo a stupid decision by a judge costs tens of thousands of dollars most of us don’t have. Our people’s lives will be changed by the decisions of the successful candidate. Our only chance is to screen out Judge Roy Bean before he gets to the bench. These questions are less intrusive than the questions mere jurors are asked; if you fail you answer, you’ll be found in contempt.

Do you understand the law, our county, and our culture? How will you protect our families from each other, and from over-active law enforcement and social workers? Times are hard; some people can’t flee Sierra County for places with jobs, they have to ride out the depression here; what will you do about the fact that people make hard choices to live? Resources are short; demands on the system is high, how will you make sound decisions quickly?

In addition, a judge is a bureaucrat who administers the law. A good bureaucrat will have the skills necessary to buzz through the questions.

Wacky Judge Clark Brown, played by the late Henry Gibson, from Boston Legal
Further, during the period the winner serves, many of us will be under her or his gavel; we will be expected to answer endless questions, on the spot, under oath. Any candidate who can’t sit at the comfort of her or his computer and answer these questions at their leisure doesn’t deserve to sit on the bench and ask more of us.

Some of the questions fall into the "I have my opinion, but the law is the law and my job is to discharge the law" category, but that isn’t an answer. A judge is a human being, the robes and folderol don’t change that, and we want to know what the human sitting in judgement of us thinks.

We’ll let you know as they respond.

If readers have other questions, we’ll ask those as well.


Chuck Ervin wants to be da judge. He’s been shaking hands in the county.

Questions for judge candidates

Do you still beat your husband/wife?

What kinds of law have you practiced, or positions have you held?

Do you believe that social science evidence substantiates the belief that all persons receive equal justice in court proceedings?

What would you use as determinants or criteria in setting bail?

Tell us your view on the war on drugs, its relative effectiveness as a social policy, its long term effects on the criminal justice system, the prison system, and the underclass.

Recently in California there have been increased efforts to deny gun ownership or to deny gun possession to citizens after some kinds of court actions. Where do you stand on gun ownership?

Where do you stand on medical cannabis? Do you use medical cannabis, and if not, would you, if you had a condition for which it brought more relief than chemical drugs?

Do you drink alcohol?

What social class would you say you are? What social class would you say your family was growing up?

Do you have children?

Have you ever been divorced?

Have you ever been in foster care?

Were either of your parents ever incarcerated?

What family law experience do you have?

What is your position on Court Appointed Special Advocates for children?

How well do you understand the letter, application, and consequence of federal laws governing child welfare?

Please define what you think an "injury" on a person is.

What experience do you have with rural life?

Do you believe rural culture is different from urban culture?

How do you believe criminal justice in rural areas and criminal justice in urban areas might be different?

How well do you know Sierra County?

How do you think crime in Sierra County is influenced by endemic poverty?

How do you think poverty effects being a parent?

What does the 1st Amendment protect?

What does the 2nd Amendment protect?

What does the 4th Amendment protect?

What does the 5th Amendment protect?

From where do individual liberties spring?

From where does the power of the government spring?

We think the current courtroom attire "dress code" is inflammatory and is intended to create a false "gravitas" around the court. Where do you stand on courtroom "dress codes"?


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