Politicization of the judiciary

Americans expect judges to decide disputes impartially. That basic fairness is threatened by the special interest groups that regularly attempt to inject politics into our court system. We strongly oppose these attempts, and here’s why:

  • The founders of our nation understood that courts need to remain free of political pressure in order to deliver fair and impartial decisions without being beholden to the partisan or interest group agendas of the political class.
  • The vision of our country founders was for an independent and impartial judicial branch that would guarantee equal access to justice for all citizens, even if their cause is politically unpopular.
  • A core American value is to protect individual rights even in the face of majority opposition. Our Constitution obligates us to be faithful to the law above all else.
  • Judges should be accountable to the law and the people - not any specific group of people favoring some laws over others.
  • Our existing system already affords ample safeguards against the abuse of judicial power because we elect judges to limited terms instead of deferring to the executive to appoint judges for life as in the federal system. If a plaintiff or defendant does not like the verdict at the circuit court level, he or she may appeal to the Court of Appeals, and if one or more of the parties still disagrees with the verdict the case can be sent to the Supreme Court. A few cases go to the final step, which is the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Separation of powers demands that our courts function independently of the governor or legislature.

Oregon statewide ballot measures

In 2002 and 2006, ballot measures threatened the impartiality of our courts in Oregon. Out-of-state special interest groups were successful in getting measures on the ballot that attempted to politicize the courts by selecting judges and justices by where they lived, rather than their merits. The judicial branch of government is not a representative form of government. Rather, judges apply the law and serve as a check and balance on the legislative and executive branches. Voters rejected the measures both years.

The 2002 measure would have made every judicial election a contested one, requiring judges to raise large amounts of money to fight off potential last-minute campaigns for “none of the above,” financed by special interest groups. It would have turned judges into politicians and had the potential of making judges hesitant to rule against powerful groups that might fund a “none of the above” campaign. Our citizens want judges to be impartial – we do not want them to be politicians.