Non-Partisan Nature of Judicial Candidacies

Same topic, opposing views

By Tim Baldwin & Joe Carbonari

By Tim Baldwin

There are judicial races across Montana this year, including for the Supreme Court. In seat 1, W. David Herbert and James Rice are competing. In seat 2, Michael E. Wheat and Lawrence VanDyke are competing. By law, judicial races are supposed to be non-partisan, but are they?

All branches of government are equally important by nature of their co-equal authority, but the judiciary is uniquely designed to stop the unconstitutional actions of the legislative and executive branch with comparatively little effort. It is (supposed to be) daily engaged in applying justice to individuals. Ironically, the judiciary gets the least amount of political attention.

Some people want to turn judicial races into partisan politics; know that a certain candidate identifies as liberal or conservative; and require judicial candidates to identify with a party when they run. This party-politics approach, however, is an unwise and shallow approach to the judiciary.

Judges have a simple duty: be fair, just, use sound methods of interpreting the law, and apply the facts correctly. They must not give favor to people they like and mistreat people they dislike. This is not party politics. This is honesty, virtue and honor. Look for that when voting for judges.


By Joe Carbonari

State Supreme Court elections make me feel guilty. I seldom seem to have a good feel for the candidates involved. I seldom have occasion to see them at their work or otherwise come in contact with them, and I seldom take the time to research them. I should, we all should. They are our guardians of fairness and competency in our courts of law. Consider yourself standing before them.

An hour and a half on the Internet was enough to assuage the guilt for this November’s judicial ballot, but I’ll still wait for Election Day to vote. I’d like to test what I’ve read against what I might hear, especially from those whose judgment I especially trust – interviews or, if fortunate, actually face-to-face.  Does this person seem to be honest, fair, sufficiently intelligent and experienced? It’s guesswork.

Generally, there is some easy opportunity to see who is publically supporting whom. It’s worth reading the list, bearing in mind that anomalies abound. Still, we tend to trust most those whose judgment we know.

We may come to know of a candidate’s general partisan leaning or alignment, but it should play a small part in our selection. Character and competence are what really count.

Loyalty to party has a roll to play in politics, but seldom should it be seen on the bench.

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