Selecting Judges

States have developed a variety of methods for selecting judges. For example, Texas’ judges are elected – from the local Justice of the Peace all the way to Justices of the Texas Supreme Court. And in Virginia, on the other hand, judges are appointed by the state legislature – and then must be reappointed from time-to-time. What method of selecting judges best guarantees that judges will serve effectively in all of the ways envisioned by the Founders: Should judges be appointed (for life) or elected?

Now that you have read Federalist #78, be sure to explain Hamilton’s point-of-view on lifetime appointments as well as your own.


About Dr. Ostroff
Head of Upper School at The Emery/Weiner School in Houston, TX

138 Responses to Selecting Judges

  1. lees2014 says:

    Judges should be appointed for life, with some room for impeachment. While an electorate system would keep the judges power in check, their judgment could be impeded and their decisions swayed if they are working for reelection rather than keeping their focus where it should be, in their cases. With a system that allows for impeachment, they would recognize the need to fulfill their duties lest they lose their job.

  2. 14pitsche says:

    In “Federalist #78”, Hamilton supported the idea that judges should be elected for life by politicians instead of the people. Robert Yates, alleged author of the corresponding anti-federalist paper, believed judges should hold their office “during their good behavior”. He makes a convincing argument: Because their primary purpose is to interpret the documents central to our government, there should be a balance of this extraordinary power with the threat of liability for misconduct. I agree with Yates’ argument. Having a life-term with no chance of impeachment resembles a monarchy. I believe judges should have terms but no limit on how many terms they can serve – good behavior would obviously lead to longer terms, thereby keeping judges accountable. Also, I think the people should elect the judges. This process does not seem to inconvenient to me, as long as the judges’ election occurs at the same time as other elections.

  3. codyw2014 says:

    Electing a judge every year or every couple of years doesn’t seem very efficient to me. Judges have to make difficult decisions everyday and that takes a lot of experience that can’t be learned overnight or even over a year. Having a lifetime appointment gives a judge years of experience that helps them make tough decisions that a regular citizen couldn’t make without having been previously presented with similar dilemmas. I also think it stresses the appointment of a good official since they’ll be there for the rest of their life. A judge will be chosen more carefully if he’s going to keep the job rather than a judge who could be replaced the next year.

  4. Bailey A. says:

    I believe judges should be elected for life. The first reason being that newly elected judges will have some inexperience compared to if the judges were appointed for life. The main reason for electing judges for life is to make a more reliable system in the court because the same judges will always be appointed therefore there will be less inconsistencies. Also people will not have to adapt to different views of the newly elected judges.

  5. While Judges hold a high rank of authority, their job description strictly requires them to fulfill their duties from an unbiased and uncorrupt standpoint. The lifetime commitment is a key element in maintaining this standard. A lifetime appointment can be a rather affective way of communicating the ethical importance of a certain position, (i.e. the Pope.) A term based reappointment system implies competition, encourages campaigns and adverts, lessens the commitment, and consequently diminishes the integral importance of the position as a whole.

  6. madelinec14 says:

    Personally, i believe the judges should be appointed for life because not only is it stated in the constitution but it also because the judiciary system would be consistent and the judges would become more and more experience and gain more knowledge in that field. If they are elected, then the employment terms would be shorter and there would be less set decisions because the judges would have different opinions and interpretations about laws.

  7. bstimson1 says:

    In my opinion, judges should be appointed for life. During their life term, they would be able to learn every aspect of the position and making decisions would be easier for them. Life-term judges wouldn’t have to worry about pleasing the people in elections and could go with their gut feeling.

  8. abbyggov14 says:

    I believe that judges should be eleted for life. This allows for important decisions and opinions to remain consistent throughout long periods of time. Also, this style of appointment makes the judiciary special and different to the other branches. The judges will continue to gain experience through their lifetime allowing them to learn from their errors to better the process in the future.

  9. EmilyM14 says:

    I believe that judges should be elected to keep to the thoughts of democracy. This is beneficial because it gives everyone running the equal opportunity to be a judge. To be reelected would mean to be able to elect along with the interests of the state, even when the general thought on the legislature has changed. This gives the people a more personal relationship with the government.

  10. 14cooke says:

    Judges should be elected. I saw in a previous comment that in favor of the latter, appointing for life, that people wouldn’t have to get used to new judges and different view points all the time. Well, in response to that, Judges should change as the people’s views change, and the judges should reflect the current desires of the local people. Being appointed for life does not ensure they will do a consistent job in an inconsistent, and always changing, community. A permanent appointed job, un-elected, sounds tyrannical to me.

  11. govellieh says:

    I share Hamilton’s opinion in the belief that judges should be appointed for life. I do like Hamilton’s qualification of this process though. In Federalist #78, he says that judges are to hold their position “during good behavior”. By stating this, he provides an ‘out’ in the case that a judge is no longer doing his job in a way that is acceptable. By appointing judges, they are set above the realm of public opinion, which I believe to be beneficial. The decisions being made by the judge are not influenced by anyone or anything except their own moral compass and the law.

  12. ashleyd2014 says:

    Personally, it makes sense to me that judges should be elected. Being appointed for life would put an unwanted pressure of pleasing everyone all the time on those elected. I still think that the judges decisions would be consistent, especially if they want to be re-elected. Although they would have to come up with different ways to campaign, their believes would still be the same. Also, what if the people grow tired of the person elected or realize that they made a mistake for who they want to be a judge? There is no going back. After reading Federalist #78, Hamilton’s view of wanting the judges elected for life is clear, and I agree with some of his points, but I think that even by serving a few years, the judges will be able to admit their wrongs.

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  14. Morgan E says:

    I believe that judges should be elected for life. This life time election is what makes the Judicial branch unique from the legislative branch and executive branch. Where the other two branches of government are fast paced and ever changing the Judicial branch seems more permanent and stately. Without the constant looming worry of reelection, Judges are able to do their jobs with only one thing on their mind, the law which is the way it should be.Morgan Eastman

  15. Anonymous says:

    I think that judges should be appointed for life. There are two main reasons for this, the first one is that if judges are appointed for life, then people won't have to adapt to different views of new judges. If we keep the same judges for as long as possible, it will eliminate inconsistency in the court for a more reliable system. And the second thing will provide is less inexperience from new judges who are re-elected.Christian H

  16. Jazmine W. says:

    I think judges should be elected. I feel as the same judge forever is a little too much and we would need a variaty of ideas. The only way that can get done is if judges are elected after a certian period of time. They could be corrupted but that does happened they will be replaced.

  17. TC says:

    Judges should be appointed for life. There are cons to this decision but I believe they are outweighed by the pros. One pro a life-elected judge will gain is experience. They will be able to use the full extent of their knowledge of the judicial system to judge the cases they are working on. Judges who must run for re-election will waver on their viewpoints and must try to constantly please the people. While this aspect can be beneficial in roles like the Senate or House of Representatives, where they should comply and be actively aware of the people’s opinion, the judges shouldn’t be concerned with individual opinions to the point where they are effectively running a campaign instead of doing their job. So the pros to life terms are experience, and the extent in which they can carry out their mission while the cons are that the judges will essentially become like teacher with tenure, where they become lazy and careless. But the possibility of this happening is minimal because judges take their job with respect and responsibility. I believe judges should be appointed for life after going through a rigorous election process. Tori C.

  18. Kai Assoun says:

    I believe that Judges should not be elected for life. If a judge is elected for life they have less of an incentive to work hard. On the contrary if a judge has to compete all the time for his position he will work harder to do a good job. When judges are elected they have pressure from new judges trying to prove themselves so they are more likely to work hard. Having judges in terms would be ideal because it would promote the best of the best to be judges.

  19. I believe that judges should be elected for life because if they know they have a secure job, they won't have to alter their opinions to stay in favor of keeping their job. If they were elected, they would have to change their decisions and beliefs constantly so they aren't afraid of being kicked out or replaced. The judges would more likely favor certain political groups and opinions so they were well liked, biasing their opinion. If judges were elected for life, they would be stress free and could focus on their job instead of their position.

  20. brian.g says:

    I think that judges shouldn't be elected for life but in terms. I think this because if someone were elected for life they wouldn't be as inclined to do the best all the time. If the judges knew they would be in office for their entire life they know they will not have to be re-elected. New judges pose a threat to older judges because new judge need a job to and are willing to fight to be the best and to serve the country. People would be much less inclined to do so when their job is predetermined for life. Judges need to be aware of social issues as well as up to date with how our culture and society functions. Having judges in terms will be ideal because we will have the best of the best because they will have to earn their right to be elected as a judge.

  21. Ellen.v14 says:

    Hamilton supports the idea that judges should be appointed for life. By having judges change constantly they are more likely to favor particular groups and follow with the popular opinion. When judges are elected constantly they would want to please the voters by changing their opinions to fit the popular opinion. When judges are appointed for life they stand by their final decisions and do not hesitate because it does not please the public. Without the stress and pressure of pleasing the public in order to be re-elected they are able to spend more time on cases and deciding what is best in a case. The judges are already elected with the belief that they will do what is best for our judiciary branch, so that should be held through life, not for a certain amount of time.

  22. Kenzie B says:

    I believe that judges should be appointed for life. After reading what Hamilton said, I came to the conclusion that having them be appointed for life is the better thing to do. If a judge is appointed for life, they will not be trying to please the public. That judge will know that they are there for life, so they dont have to please the public.

  23. I believe that our justices and judges should be appointed for life. Because they are appointed for life they do not have to worry about pleasing people so that they can become re-elected. They will speak their mind and support their own ideas. Being appointed for life is also a solid rock for us because of our ever-changing world where opinions and ideas are changed daily. These judges can be concerend about their views and no-one elses.- Corbin Campitelli

  24. Anonymous says:

    After reading Hamilton I have concluded that it is better for judges to be appointed for life. I agree with Sophia that the judges are less likely to give into new “fads’ if they are appointed for life. I also like that since they are elected once they are not persuaded by the publics opinion or by other parties. They can make more honest decisions if they are not concerned about being re-elected as a judge. –Abby J

  25. Its necessary for judges to be appointed for life in order to ensure the stability of the United States democracy. To be sure the laws are being instituted correctly, judges need to make their decisions free of worry for losing their job. Just like Hamilton, I believe that judges shouldn’t make decisions for any particular group. Their choices should be guided only by their knowledge of the Constitution and their own moral compass. The survival of the Democracy partially relies on how to how well they do their job. -Catherine G

  26. Sophia R says:

    In my opinion, judges should be appointed for life. I agree with Hamilton and his idea that judges should not be able to favor any particular group; if the judge has been appointed for longer, he does not go along with the fads that an elected judge would. An elected judge would follow the opinion of the public in order to get citizens' votes. If a judge is appointed for life, he can make wiser decisions to better America.

  27. Maria I. says:

    I believe that judges should be appointed for life. If judges were to be elected every few years, then they might change their opinions on certain topics. Judges would change their opinion because they would want to please the people. Judges would want to go with the public opinion because they want to be re-elected. If judges were to be appointed for life, then they would not have to worry about public opinion. Judges would just choose their own opinion.

  28. i believe that judges should be appointed to life instead of being elected. the judges would not be persuaded by parties to make any specific decisions to please them. by appointing judges for life it removes the pressures of trying to be re-elected and the judges decisions would not have any specific influence of any party. by judges being appointed to life it gives them independence to make decisions based off their best judgement and not be influence by a specific side.The judges point of view on things will be unbiased and not affected by other peoples opinions. without the pressures of trying to be re-elected the judges can focus more on making decisions instead of campaigning for re-election.

  29. Davis D says:

    Like Alexander Hamilton, I believe that judges should be appointed for life. There is always the possibility that elections are corrupt and a lot of the voters aren't educated enough on the topic in the judicial system to be able to elect judges that represent our country. Bias voters are common and with the President appointing these judges, we wouldn't have to worry about voters voting when they don't know enough. Another reason why voters should be appointed for life is to withhold the pressure that comes with re-election. Not only does it remove the pressure, but it grants the judges with freedom and independence in making critical decisions.

  30. GriffinL says:

    I believe that judges should be appointed for life because if they had a secure job, they would not have the worry of reelections. I agree with Hamilton because then they would have to campaign. Also, they can worry more for the good for America not just for the good of themselves. If they are in elections, they could go for something that is not constitutional right just to get the popular vote.

  31. Meagan Ellis says:

    I think judges should be appointed for life. Most political jobs only last for a few years or however long their term is, they do not have any job protection and are only kept if the people like them. If Judges are appointed for life they can get away from all the stress of the political parties and pleasing the people. The can focus on their job and making sure their decisions are constitutional.

  32. George W says:

    I believe that judges should be elected for life, otherwise, the judge might be influenced by the will of the people and therefore not rule as to what may seem fit and proper. When making a controversial ruling, an elected official may not be allowed to hold that office after another round of elections because the people of his district may not believe the ruling was proper.

  33. I believe that judges should be appointed for life. It may sound unconstitutional for them to be appointed and not chosen by the people, but in a way they are voted for. When a state votes for their government officials the people are putting the responsibility of their lives in the hands of their representatives. So when a official (voted by the people) appoint a judge, he or she is being indirectly voted to the position by the people of his or her state. And when the judge is appointed for life one who appointed the judge should know whether or not the person is responsible enough for the life long job.

  34. Cole says:

    Judge should be appointed for life. Free from political pressures and campaign stress, judges have the opportunity and freedom to be more prudent in their decisions. According to Hamilton, the constitution gives a sort of "independence" to the judiciary branch. With this "independence," judges can make decisions for the betterment of U.S.A.

  35. justinator says:

    Judges are most compatable when they are appointed for life. When you look at other elected officials, they always have the next election in the back of their mind. So they have to kiss up to the people rather than doing what they feel is right. A Supreme court Justice does not have that problem. One could say that appointment for life does not insure that they will do the best job. But they also do have to go through the struggle of consistant re-election mindset that makes us infuriated at other politicions.

  36. Nicole H. says:

    I believe judges should be elected from time to time and not have the security of being a judge for life. If they were given a position for life, they would be more likely to not do their job to the best of their ability, since they do not have to worry about losing their jobs. If they must be elected from time to time, they will do better work in order to ensure reelection. Hamilton disagrees in saying the appointment of judges should be "the same with that of appointing the officers of the Union in general" meaning they are appointed by the president for life. Hamilton's argument is that since the judges will have their jobs for life, they are independent of thinking like the public, and their constant struggle to keep a job. I disagree with Hamilton because I think it is important to not guarantee their jobs, so the judges will perform to the best of their ability. -Nicole H

  37. AlienorR says:

    In my personal opinion, the judges should be appointed for life. By being appointed for life, the worry of trying to please parties for votes is eliminated. Judges no would no longer feel as if they have to conform their decisions to the majority of the people in order to gain votes for re election. Judges would be able to make decisions simply based on what they think is logical. The judges would be under less pressure and would gain more experience as time goes by. With re-election, judges can be persuaded to please the people. Also, there is always the possibility of not being re elected. A lifetime appointed position insures the government of consistency.

  38. I believe that judges should be appointed for life. By appointing judges for life, decisions would be more consistent, making it easier to progress. Also, in a life term, judges would not be influenced by any specific fad or swayed by a specific group. When judges are required to be re-elected, they may be influenced to make the political decision and not the right decision. Judges would never be rushed to make the proper decision because there time is endless.

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