Local Politics 101: Why Do We Elect Judges?

The San Diego Superior Court is shown in this undated photo.
Above: The San Diego Superior Court is shown in this undated photo.

Have you ever left your ballot blank when it came to voting for superior court judges?

San Diego Mesa College and University of San Diego political science professor Carl Luna has some advice for deciding how to vote on those races.

Luna joins Midday Edition Tuesday for the second installment of San Diego Politics 101. In the second episode, Luna answered questions about electing judges.

RELATED: Local Politics 101: Running For School Board

The answers below have been edited for clarity and brevity. To hear the full interview listen to the Midday Edition podcast.

Q: Justin Schiffer of San Diego asked: Why do we elect judges here? Lots of municipalities and states don’t do that, so what is the advantage? It seems like a situation where electing judges would be ripe for a situation of conflict of interest and give the appearance of a quid pro quo.

A: The short of it is because we do. We’ve done it for over 150 years. The question is, if you allow governors and the rest to appoint judges, will they then control the judges? So in California the prejudice is, and most states, 40 states pretty much, it’s to let the voters pick the judges so they won’t be beholden to the other elected officials. So most states do this, the federal government doesn’t. And in California we mix it. Supreme court, appellate court, governor appoints and eventually the voters get to vote on them (in a retention referendum). Only at the superior court level do you have frequent elections.

Q: And there are 47 superior court judge offices. Why so many?

A: Well, that’s just on the blocks for this election cycle. We have something over a hundred different departments. Because you’ve got the North County, the South County, East County, downtown,…

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