Sunday, December 10, 2006

Spending the Surplus

Well, ole Brummett had a good mental exercise going on in his column today. He "spent" the $840 million surplus in 20 column inches. That is a lot of taxpayer earnings per word. I lack his audacity, but I thought I'd play along as well.

Let's see, Brummett says we should spend $350 million of the $840 million complying with the court's orders for school facilities improvements from the Lakeview case. I have a more modest amount in mind for the time being.

My plan is to set aside two million to pay for the impeachment trials of four of the seven state supreme court "justices" who are most determined to usurp the authority of the other two branches of government. I realize we would need a constitutional amendment to allow the ledge to impeach them, but we can submit that to the electorate for no extra charge. I'd defer any major outlay increases for public schools until 1)We figure out which branch of government is supposed to determine how much is spent and for what, and 2) we start fixing the things that can be fixed without money. Like classroom discipline.

Brummett wants to set $240 million aside in an emergency fund that would give us some cushion for any shortfalls caused by a sales-tax cut on food. I like the idea of a cushion, it sounds prudent, but that amount is equal to the ENTIRE sales tax amount on food for a year. He suggests going along with Beebe's plan to cut it in half. I'd cut it all, and leave the reserve the same. Actually, let's make it an even 250 million and get rid of the absurd retail sales tax on energy used for manufacturing. That one will pay for itself by generating more economic activity.

Brummett also thinks we should fork over another 168 million dollars to the state's higher ed system. That is in addition to the 150 million dollars they just got in loans by a vote of the people. As you might suspect, my attitude is if they wanted $318 million from us they should have asked for that amount in the election we just had. They asked for and just got permission for an extra $150 million, so no surplus soup for you Higher Ed!

Brummett also want to let Governor-elect Beebe have his 50 million dollar slush fund to pick winners and loses as far as businesses go. I prefer to leave that to the free market, so no surplus soup for the Gov. elect either. Brummett also says we have 30 million in bond dect obligations, but I don't know why that has to come out of the surplus, it is supposed to come out of the operating budget and that is where I'd take it from.

Brummett may have tried that sleight of hand to get the GIF money pork down to two million dollars. I'm OK with that low amount.

So that's how Brummett spent the whole wad of $840 million. I seem to be having some trouble spending that much money that I know I did not earn. It is from the labor of others. I seem to have spent only $254 million, $250 million of that to allow room for tax cuts. What should I do with the remaining almost $600 million dollars? Well, maybe I am just one man and shouldn't decide how to spend $600 million dollars that has been earned by my fellow citizens. I think I should just tell all those special interests with their hands out to blow it out their ears. I'd declare a dividend of $500 per tax return and/or raise the personal exemption amounts to more reasonable levels.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do you want to impeach the justices who voted in favor of Lakeview when three of them were just re-elected, three without opposition? The one justice who had an opponent, Justice Don Corbin, won handily, although his opponent tried to make Lakeview an issue in the campaign. (The other two were Justice Brown and Justice Imber, two of the more "liberal" justices.)

In a system of elected judges, unless a judge has demonstrated personal corruption or felonious activity, you don't really need to impeach judges you don't like. Just vote against them at the next election. Apparently the people decided in 2006 they like the Arkansas Supreme Court as-is.

7:38 AM, December 11, 2006  
Blogger Mr. Toast said...

It's every branch's job to protect it's segment of constitutionally-defined power.

The "voters have spoken" applied to an issue like this would mean tyranny of the majority in the truest sense of the term: a simple majority voting in an oligarchy in one branch of government who can unconstitutionally trample upon the domain of other duly elected representatives.

Notwithstanding, just how many people could tell you the name of one candidate for Arkansas supreme court justice this year? Of those who could, how many could also list just one campaign issue- and what side of that issue that candidate stood? The voter would have to think hard, as none of the positions were contested in the general election!

8:15 AM, December 11, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Toast you are factually incorrect. Justice Don Corbin had an opponent in the election in May, which was the general election for judges. Justice Corbin won, although his opponent ran TV ads referring to the Lakeview opinion.

So -- you support impeaching justices who were just elected by the people, not because of personal malfeasance or impropriety, but because you don't agree with their opinions? And who exactly is wanting to trample on separation of powers? Ha!

12:00 PM, December 11, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please, Toast is right. He does not even know all the ways he is right.

"Election" for judges in this state is broken. You say one guy "tried" to make it an issue- but no judicial candidate CAN make it an issue like they could with candidates for any other office, becuase the "Code of Judicial Ethics" won't let them! Sure people vote, but mostly out of ignorance.

But that is not even the biggest flaw in our election system for judges. The biggest flaw is that it is done in MAY where the Democratic Primary voters outnumber Republican Primary voters about six to one, and both of them together are MAYBE half the voters in a presidential year- maybe less.

The fact that the voters on that day are skewed toward Dem. primary voters means that results are far to the left of November voters.

12:59 PM, December 11, 2006  
Blogger Mr. Toast said...

You made a lame jab at my "notwithstanding" comment, and, like a good hack, didn't even address my main point. Care to try?

Answer this: Doesn't the legislature, elected by the people, have a constitutional duty to check the court's reach?

1:22 PM, December 11, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Supreme Court has a constitutional duty to enforce constitutional provisions, including the one guaranteeing an appropriate education for Arkansas schoolchildren. In my mind, the Supreme Court in the Lakeview decision has not overreached, though on occasion it has been inconsistent in keeping the special masters on board and not closing the case when it said it would.

The entire issue came up when Mark suggested devoting $2 million toward impeachment proceedings to Supreme Court Justices. My point is that it is silly to impeach elected officials who have committed no crimes and were just re-elected by the people. If the people don't like the Supreme Court decisions, they can vote against the justices. And they didn't.

2:27 PM, December 11, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And, of course, they won't even talk about giving some of that surplus back to the people it really belongs to: the taxpayers, who have actually gotten out and worked hard for the money that's been taken from them in the form of taxes.

3:58 PM, December 11, 2006  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

Au contraire- the court has grossly over-reached, as two of the seven say themselves in their dissent. The courts are not the only branch of government with a duty to enforce the constitution's provisions, and that includes a duty to keep the other branches in check and balance.

The courts have ZERO constutitional authority to determine what the "proper" level of spending is for education or anything else. The LEGISLATURE has the power of the purse strings in our system of government- or at least they did until the judges made themselves into a super-legislature.

Even their original reasoning in Lakeview was flawed, as the amendment says the state should provide a "general and suitable" education not an "adequate" one. They inserted that word in as part of their ego-driven power trip that places them not only above the legislature, but the very Constitution which created them.

As for your claim that it is "silly to impeach justices when they have committed no crime" I have to respond that usurpation of authority of the other branches is a lot more serious misbehavior than say, getting caught with a hooker. Of course they ought to be impeached for it. If they should not be impeached for that, then I can hardly think of anything more serious that they could do to prompt their impeachment.

Of course, all that depends on an amendment being added to the constitution empowering the ledge to impeach judges. Right now they can't. That is how untouchable they are under this flawed system. I say submit the amendment and let the people decide! You said, "but they were elected". I think the 12:59 post pretty much shot that down. They were elected in May under a system that won't permit them to campaign on the issues. That compares very unfavorably with the other two branches who are elected in November by more voters and they can go into the issues.

4:13 PM, December 11, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No system of which I am aware provides for the impeachment of public officials based on an officials' exercise of judgment, discretion, or opinion. The U.S. Constitution provides for impeachment of judicial and executive officers only upon proof of high crimes and misedemeanors. What you are proposing is radical -- allowing impeachment based on a judge's rulings. There is no state in the country, that I know of, that allows that. Certainly the U.S. Constitution doesn't, even in a system with life-time judicial appointments.

And, sorry, but elections do matter. The fact that three judges can consistently challenge the legislature in the Lakeview legislation, and survive at the ballot box, means something. True -- judges in an election can't make promises about how they would rule (and that's a good thing, too). But that doesn't prevent others from talking about them. You could have campaigned against Corbin, Brown and Imber. Did you? The GOP's 527 could have campaigned against them. Did it? Wasn't important enough to you? Too busy talking about a . . . lieutenant governor's race? (Which job is more important -- Supreme Court justice or lieutenant governor?)

In Arkansas history we have seen Supreme Court justices defeated by radical right-wingers -- e.g., Justice Jim Johnson in the late 1950s. Thank the Lord most Arkansans have moved beyond that. Perhaps you should as well.

7:53 PM, December 11, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this, perhaps, should be the number one job of the "constitution party" is to inform people about the constitution and the judges who supposedly make decisions based upon it.

10:43 PM, December 11, 2006  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

anon 7:53

Wow you sure have a lot of facts wrong in a short amount of space. It is going to take a bit longer for me to unwind those errors.

If their "discretion" includes usurpation of the Constitutional powers then that does indeed qualify as a "misdemeanor" under the Constitution. Don't read the term "misdemeanor" as we understand it today, but as how the framers understood it. More about that shortly.

Also, you are incorrect in your statement that judges have a "life-time" appointment. The Constitution says they only have an appointment for periods "of good behavior", and usurping the Legislature surely would not qualify as good behavior.

I wrote several articles asking people not to vote for Corbin- and please don't associate me with the GOP or that awful 527. I only back good candidates, not the GOP.

Now as to what the founders meant by "misdemeanor", I am going to quote a long passage from Wallbuilders. THere are a lot of links which demonstrate my point, but I am pressed for time this morning and this was the first one that met my minimum requirements. ****************************
However, there are several historical reasons why impeachment has never been attempted for these offenses. In 1803-1805, President Thomas Jefferson attempted to use impeachment as a political weapon against Federalist judges. Jefferson, and those pursuing impeachment in the House, properly understood that "high crimes and misdemeanors" was an elastic term, designed to encompass unindictable offenses. However, they abused the process by attempting to circumvent the limits the Framers intended for the term.

History is the best guide to understanding why the term "high crimes and misdemeanors" was chosen. History also demonstrates that Jefferson went beyond the Framers' intent when he sought to use impeachment to remove federal judges simply because they belonged to the opposing political party. Anyone who seeks to do the same today would be guilty of the same error. However, anyone who seeks to remove tyrannical federal judges would use the tool of impeachment exactly as intended by the Framers.

Many who object to the current impeachment movement correctly point out that the Constitution prescribes an exhaustive list of reasons for which a federal official may be impeached. Those reasons are "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors."

These naysayers point out that the federal judges who are the target of impeachment efforts are not guilty of bribery nor (apparently) of treason under the narrow definition provided in the Constitution. These impeachment opponents fail to recognize what the term "high crimes and misdemeanors" encompassed. This criticism of the impeachment movement comes in three basic forms. The first version is the bald assertion that impeachment was not meant to cover rendering opinions that Congress disagrees with. As pointed out in the Introduction, this is a mischaracterization of the impeachment movement. The second version is a similarly bald assertion that impeachment will not lie for rendering unconstitutional opinions. The third version is that impeachment will only lie for an indictable offense.

A quick review of Table 1 is enough to dispel some of these mistaken beliefs. However, additional historical data will demonstrate in greater detail why those individuals behind the current impeachment movement-like Congressman DeLay, David Barton and this author-are in the right and those who oppose the current impeachment movement-like the ABA, seventy-five bar association presidents, and 104 law school deans-are in the wrong.

At the Constitutional Convention, George Mason suggested the term "maladministration" as a needed grounds for impeachment because: "Treason as defined in the Constitution will not reach many great and dangerous offenses . . . . Attempts to subvert the Constitution may not be Treason as above defined." However, James Madison objected to the term because "so vague a term will be equivalent to a tenure during the pleasure of the Senate." The Convention instead adopted the phrase "high crimes and mis-demeanors. Thus, the Framers also included a powerful check on judicial tyranny, while being careful to protect the independence of the judiciary.

The Framers chose the term "high crimes and misdemeanors" for this dual purpose because it was a phrase that already had a long 400-year history. The term is not derived from criminal law at all but was coined in the context of the 1386 impeachment of the Earl of Suffolk. In fact, at that time there was no such crime as a misdemeanor. In those days, lesser crimes were prosecuted as "trespasses." The phrase "high crimes and misdemeanors" applied to political crimes, i.e., crimes against the state whether indictable or not.

One point needs to be clarified. The Constitutional Convention substituted the phrase "high crimes and misdemeanors" for the "vague" term "maladministration." Yet Sir William Blackstone-whose views on this matter many scholars of impeachment consult-considered maladministration to be a high crime or misdemeanor. The answer to this seeming contradiction lies in the fact that Blackstone (and Mason) were describing a key political crime while Madison was warning about an abuse of the terminology used to name that crime. Blackstone's use of maladministration is clearly limited to crimes against the state and does not extend to removing one's personal enemies. For example, he writes that public officials are subject to impeachment because they "may infringe the rights of the people, and be guilty of such crimes, as the ordinary magistrate either does not or cannot punish."

The Framers were well aware of the 400 years of English impeachment history. Richard Wooddeson, Blackstone's successor as Vinerian Lecturer, authored the first "methodical compilation" on the subject of English impeachment beginning in 1777. The work was "much cited in our country."

Wooddeson explicitly stated that impeachment is appropriate for misdeeds that would not be cognizable in the ordinary courts of law. In his discussion of what had historically constituted "high crimes and misdemeanors" and thus grounds for impeachment, he wrote that judges could be impeached if they "mislead their sovereign by unconstitutional opinions." In his Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, Justice Joseph Story paraphrased and summarized Wooddeson's work:

In examining the parliamentary history of impeachments it will be found that many offenses not easily definable by law, and many of a purely political character, have been deemed high crimes and misdemeanors worthy of this extraordinary remedy. Thus, lord chancellors and judges and other magistrates have not only been impeached for bribery, and acting grossly contrary to the duties of their office, but for misleading their sovereign by unconstitutional opinions and for attempts to subvert the fundamental laws, and introduce arbitrary power.

Mason (as noted above) was desirous that, because the traditional definition of treason had been narrowed by the Convention, some of the old grounds for treason would be under "maladministration." In particular, Mason was concerned that efforts to subvert the Constitution might not constitute treason. To modern scholars it may seem strange that Mason had any question whatsoever about this matter. It appears-on the face of the document-that subverting the Constitution is outside the definition of treason adopted by the Convention. Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that Mason understood that, under the constitutional definition, treason includes "levying war." In the English impeachment of the Earl of Strafford (1642), subverting the fundamental laws and introducing arbitrary power were characterized as "high treason" because such actions were held to constitute "levying war" against the people and the King.

The early Supreme Court likely relied on the same logic when it declared that that either usurping or abrogating authority constituted treason under the Constitution-despite the fact that, to modern thinking, these things do not fit the Constitutional definition. The Court stated, "We have no more right to decline the exercise of jurisdiction which is given, than to usurp that which is not given. The one or the other would be treason to the constitution."

So, although subverting the Constitution very possibly was included as an impeachable offense under the treason provision, Mason wanted to "hedge his bets" and cover it in another provision, as well. The term "high crimes and misdemeanors," was eventually adopted to meet Mason's concerns. The term, therefore, subsumes the political crimes of subverting the fundamental laws and introducing arbitrary power.

The fact that Jefferson, as President, went too far does nothing to change the Framers' intention regarding the proper uses of impeachment. Clearly, the Framers intended to create an independent judiciary. Hamilton dedicated several numbers of the Federalist to this issue. However, it is equally true that Hamilton, in Federalist No. 81, wrote of

the important constitutional check which the power of instituting impeachments . . . would give to [Congress] upon the judicial department. This is alone a complete security. There can never be danger that the judges, by a series of deliberate usurpations on the authority of the legislature, would hazard the united resentment of the body intrusted [sic] with it.

Jefferson and his allies sought to remove Federalist judges from the bench simply because they were political adversaries. The nation should be grateful that they failed. When many of the Framers and early constitutional scholars stated that impeachments were political in nature, they did not mean that they were to be used as a political weapon against political enemies. Rather, they meant that they were to be used to punish "political crimes," which would often be outside the cognizance of the criminal statutes or which could be punished both by criminal prosecutions and with impeachment.

The Framers did not simply have knowledge of English impeachment history. They also explicitly adopted the same "ground rules" for America. Consider several of the following representative quotations. Alexander Hamilton, in The Federalist Papers, wrote:

The subjects of its [impeachment's] jurisdiction are those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.

Justice James Wilson, a signer of the Constitution and one of the five original Supreme Court Justices explained that "Impeachments are confined to political characters, to political crimes and misdemeanors, and to political punishments."

In multiple discussions in his Commentaries, Justice Joseph Story strongly attacked the idea that high crimes and misdemeanors could be limited to indictable offenses:

The jurisdiction is to be exercised over offences, which are committed by public men in violation of their public trust and duties. Those duties are, in many cases, political; and, indeed, in other cases, to which the power of impeachment will probably be applied, they will respect functionaries of a high character, where the remedy would otherwise be wholly inadequate, and the grievance be incapable of redress. Strictly speaking, then, the power partakes of a political character, as it respects injuries to the society in its political character . . . .

The plain inference is that the remedy will be "wholly inadequate" because the offences are not indictable.

However, there are other passages in which Story speaks less euphemistically. For example, he also explained:

The offences to which the power of impeachment has been and is ordinarily applied as a remedy are of a political character. Not but that crimes of a strictly legal character fall within the scope of power . . . but that it has a more enlarged operation, and reaches what are aptly termed political offenses, growing out of personal misconduct or gross neglect, or usurpation, or habitual disregard of the public interests, in the discharge of the duties of political office. These are so various in their character, and so indefinable in their actual involutions, that it is almost impossible to provide systematically for them by positive law. They must be examined upon very broad and comprehensive principles of public policy and duty.

Here Story was quite specific: impeachable offenses include both indictable crimes and unindictable political offences. Yet, he went on to make an even stronger statement, noting that no one in his day had asserted that impeachment could be confined to federal crimes:

Again, there are many offences, purely political, which have been held to be within the reach of parliamentary impeachments, not one of which is in the slightest manner alluded to in our statute book. And, indeed, political offences are of so various and complex a character, so utterly incapable of being defined, or classified, that the task of positive legislation would be impracticable, if it were not almost absurd to attempt it. . . . [N]o one has as yet been bold enough to assert that the power of impeachment is limited to offences positively defined in the statute book of the Union, as impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors.

A final point is also well worth noting. None of the earliest impeachments involved an indictable crime.

Congress have unhesitatingly adopted the conclusion that no previous statute is necessary to authorize an impeachment for any official misconduct; and the rules of proceeding, and the rules of evidence, as well as the principles of decision, have been uniformly regulated by the known doctrines of the common law and [English] parliamentary usage. In the few cases of impeachment, which have hitherto been tried, no one of the charges has rested upon any statutable misdemeanors.

We also recall that other passage from Story, cited earlier, wherein he recounts that:

[L]ord chancellors, and judges, and other magistrates, have not only been impeached for bribery, and acting grossly contrary to the duties of their office, but for misleading their sovereign by unconstitutional opinions, and for attempts to subvert the fundamental laws, and introduce arbitrary power.

These last examples are not indictable crimes. Yet they constitute political offenses which judges committed from the 1300s through the 1700s.

In summary, it is beyond dispute that the Framers intended impeachment to be used against political crimes whether indictable or not. It is also clear that "misleading their sovereign by unconstitutional opinions and for attempts to subvert the fundamental laws, and introduce arbitrary power" were "high crimes and misdemeanors" about which the Framers were particularly concerned with regard to the judicial branch.

Jefferson's attempted abuse of this tool led to its disfavor. Another possible contributing factor was that officials who had been impeached for unindictable offenses almost universally argued the opposite view-that only indictable offenses were impeachable-even though no impeached official has ever persuaded the Senate with this argument.

5:43 AM, December 12, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That the Founders themselves, including Jefferson, could not agree on the meaning of "misdemeanors" is telling. What is important to me is that it has never in the past 200 years been used on any consistent basis to remove officeholders based on policy disagreements; and when it has been attmpted, those who attempted to use it for such purposes lost, and were frequently discredited or embarrassed in the process(Jefferson and Federalist judges in the early 1800s, the Radical Republicans and Andrew Johnson in 1868, the House Republicans and Clinton in 1998). History has not been kind to those who have used impeachment for political purposes, rather than focusing on personal corruption or criminal activity.

Here's my larger point -- how have the Arkansas Supreme Court justices violated a "public trust" if the public overwhelmingly re-elected them earlier this year? The best remedy for bad politics is the ballot box, not a judicial proceeding. Elections matter. The people have spoken. Lakeview stands.

6:45 AM, December 12, 2006  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

Sigh. How can you come to that conclusion after reading that article?

Did you notice that the article made reference to a chart that I did not include? It was a list of impeachments and a good chunk of them were for non-statutory offeses. The Founders DID agree that misdemeanors went as far as I am saying it should go, the difference was that Jefferson wanted to use impeachment for partisan purposes. That was the only disagreement among the founders. The ones that did not like impeachment for non-statutory misdemeanors were the lawyers for the guys who got impeached for them!

If you can possibly be convinced, I can find piles more documentation that this is true. Do you even care about the evidence?

And you are trying a sleight of hand when you equate what I am suggesting with what Jefferson tried- impeachment of judges because they were not of his party. That is different from usurpation. Nor is it the same as impeaching them for rulings I don't like that are within their proper sphere. They can rule specific laws are unconstitutional, but not on the basis that the ledge is spending an unconstititionally low total amount of money.

It has also been pointed out several times on this thread that elections for judges are held in MAY whereas most of the voters vote in NOVEMBER, and that judicial elections do not discuss issues so people don't know what they are voting for.

If you think conservatives are going to concede the legitimacy of elections held on nights when the Democratic vote outnumbers the Republican vote 6-1 then you are dreaming. The GOP probably only went along with the idea to elect judges this way because it also meant judges did not pay filing fees, and before the rule change most of those fees went to the Democratic party coffers.

3:18 PM, December 12, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"judicial elections do not discuss issues so people don't know what they are voting for."

Wrong. Nothing prevents issues from being discussed in judicial elections. Judges themselves can't comment on matters that might come before the court, for good reasons. Nothing prevents judges from discussing issues (Wendell Griffin discussed the minimum wage) or others from discussing issues that might be ruled on. That judge from Maumelle who ran against Corbin actually discussed Lakeview, which I thought was an ethical violation on his part. But he still lost.

"If you think conservatives are going to concede the legitimacy of elections held on nights when the Democratic vote outnumbers the Republican vote 6-1 then you are dreaming."

Why are elections held in May not legitimate? Any voter has the opportunity to vote for a judge in May, whether on the Democratic ballot, the Republican ballot, or none of the above. They are held on the same day as primary elections. More Democrats do show up to vote in May. That doesn't make the elections illegitimate. It just means there are more Democrats than Republicans in Arkansas.

"The GOP probably only went along with the idea to elect judges this way because it also meant judges did not pay filing fees, and before the rule change most of those fees went to the Democratic party coffers."

Wrong. Judges still do pay filing fees. If memory serves, circuit court judges pay $7,500 and appellate judges pay $10,000, which are in line with partisan filing fees for political offices. The GOP did push for non-partisan races when Amendment 80 was adopted in 2000 because of the filing fee issue, but then again, so did most Democrats and the Arkansas Bar Association, because it was the right thing to do.

The reason the elections for judges are held in May boils down to a very simple issue -- money. Judicial elections, especially in Circuit Court races, often create run-offs. Local officials hate run-offs after November elections, because they are expensive and more infrequent than run-offs in May. To avoid run-off elections to resolve only judicial races, and risk the ire of local election officials, the Supreme Court decided to hold judicial elections at the time of the partisan primaries in May, with the runoff for judicial races held in November. I'm not exactly crazy about that system, because it often creates year-long circuit court races that are expensive to the candidates, but it does so counties money.

7:26 AM, December 13, 2006  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

Well, we agree that we are not crazy about the system. You have some good points, and I think you really knew what I meant by my short-hand, but I will clarify my remarks.....

I want to clarify that I DON'T think that judicial elections are illegitimate- only that November elections confer MORE legitimacy on the legislature and executive than the May elections do on judges. I was speaking in relative, not absolute, terms. The whole thing is in the context of a constitutional clash between branches. I happen to think the other branches have both a right and a duty to defend their jursidictions.

As far as speaking out on issues goes, I was short-handing it again. Judges can't speak out on RELAVENT issues. They should be able to- I agree with Wendell Griffin on that one if not much else. The code of Judicial ethics should be amended.

Now I agree they should not promise in advance of hearing the evidence in a case how they would rule, but there is no reason why they should not be able to comment on rulings in PAST cases, like Roe v Wade. After all, this is what appeals court judges do all the time. THAT was my point.

As for the filing fees, once again you are correct, but it is a distinction without a relavent difference. My point was simply that the state GOP went along with the May election plan in part because THE DEMOCRATS would not get the filing fees. The "no filing fees" was in the context of party support and fees to a party.

I see your point about the election run-offs, but there are other solutions. Why have a run-off? Or maybe only have a run-off if no one gets over 40%. Or maybe have run-offs for ALL offices, not just county. Wouldn't that be refreshing? No more "lesser of two evils" on the General Election Day.

9:04 AM, December 13, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most judicial candidates who are NOT running against an incumbent, at least on the front end, would tell you that they prefer to run in May, with a runoff with the regular run-offs in early June following the May primaries. May primaries are usually easier than general elections because there are fewer voters, and it's cheaper to run. Plus, people pay more attention to judicial races in May, because there are fewer state-wide and federal elections to suck up all the electoral oxygen.

Having the election in May, with a "run-off" 6 months later, is an entirely new election, with its own new dynamic and new expenses.

Unlike other northern states Arkansas and other southern states have a long history of run-offs, which were originally designed to prevent a black candidate from winning a plurality over two white candidates. Notwithstanding the racist past, you can make a pretty good case for run-off elections as conferring greater legitimacy on an elected official. The real problem for judicial candidates is money. Nobody gives judicial candidates to run. They usually have to fund most of it themselves, which can get very expensive. (Many local circuit court races cost upwards of $100K -- which means the wealthier lawyers are those who can afford to run.) The upside is that their salaries are lot higher when they win, and they serve longer terms, so many are willing to take the risk.

11:35 AM, December 13, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, they have no money to educate voters about their positions and the distinctions between themselves and their opponents, yet you draw the conclusion that this makes their election "more" legitimate?

As far as people paying more attention in May, that is hardly supported by the drastic drop in voter turnout for primaries. It just means the party with the most hacks (that'd be the Dems in Arkansas) gets their boys elected much easier.

4:45 PM, December 14, 2006  

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