That is the best explanation I can come up with for the weird phenomenon of some editorial writers and op-ed commentators insisting that the report of Michigan's Judicial Selection Task Force recommends scrapping Michigan's system of voters electing judges. Apparently something supernatural is going on that causes the actual text of the "suite of reforms for the electoral process" recommended by the Task Force to vanish from the eyes of some readers and its real recommendations to be turned on their heads. The actual recommendations are grounded on the continuation of the electoral system. They are:
- full, open disclosure of campaign spending
- open, nonpartisan primaries
- a citizens' campaign oversight committee
- voter education guides
- a gubernatorial screening process for filling vacancies that is more transparent and includes nonlawyers, introducing greater accountability into the current system
- eliminating the constitutional age limit on serving as a judge
The Report acknowledges that many members of the Task Force favored a non-elective system of selecting judges, but that viewpoint did not prevail as a recommendation of the whole Task Force. Except for the zombie factor, I guess.
Full disclosure: I served as a member of the Task Force. I saw nothing supernatural occurring during the process of deliberations, just a broad spectrum of members searching for good, practical solutions to some serious problems. The State Bar of Michigan has a long history of advocacy on judicial selection issues, most recently as a proponent of fuller campaign finance disclosure, but has not yet addressed the substance of the Task Force's recommendations. So the point of this post is not to promote the Task Force's recommendations, but instead to point out that we can't have a productive debate about the flaws of the present system and whether and how to improve it until we exorcise this mischievous ghost that's playing havoc with the facts.