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The Partisan Foundations of Judicial Campaign Finance

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  1. A.J. Sutter says:

    So what would be a better way than elections of bringing some sort of democratic legitimacy to the selection and retention of judges? Is it enough to regulate the finance of judicial campaigns? Given the current composition of SCOTUS, is such regulation likely to be upheld anytime in the foreseeable future?

    The legitimacy issue is a big deal in Japan, at least for those members of the electorate who aren’t so disgusted by politics here that they tune out altogether. Elected representatives don’t have even the appearance of input into the selection of Supreme Court justices; the Chief Justice effectively selects all associate justices. (The Prime Minister, who himself usually lacks any national electoral mandate, has some rubber-stamp input.) Japan’s constitution provides that the electorate has the ability to vote for the dismissal of new Supreme Court justices during the first general election after appointment and again at roughly 10-year intervals. But the lack of information about the individual Justices (even their appointment is never a news item here), their short tenure (5-6 years on average), and the relevant math (it takes a >50% disapproval vote for a specific justice) makes it almost impossible to remove anyone: it’s never happened since the constitution came into effect. The Supreme Court effectively controls the appointment of all other judges in the country, all courts being part of the central government. One approach to improving legitimacy has been the recent revival and improvement of the pre-WWII system of lay judges, but this applies only to criminal cases. (And it’s partly in response to a popular perception that professional judges were too lenient in sentencing.) It’s a puzzler.

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