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mlyonsd
06-30-2011, 01:41 PM
Billionaire George Soros Trying To Stack the Courts, Critics Say

By Maxim Lott
Published June 27, 2011 | FoxNews.com

Billionaire George Soros spends tens of millions each year supporting a range of liberal social and political causes, from drug legalization to immigration reform to gay marriage to abolishing the death penalty.

But a less well-known Soros priority -- replacing elections for judges with selection-by-committee -- now has critics accusing him of trying to stack the courts.

Most non-federal judges around the country are selected by voters in elections. But some states use a process called “merit selection” in which a committee – often made up of lawyers – appoints judges to the bench instead.

Soros has spent several million dollars in the past decade in an attempt to get more states to scrap elections and adopt the merit method.

Supporters say it would allow judges to focus on interpreting the law rather than on raising campaign funds and winning elections.

“Merit selection would end the money race and get judges out of the fundraising business,” Lynn Marks, executive director of Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts -- a group that has received money from Soros’ Open Society Institute -- told FoxNews.com.

But critics say that if judges are picked by committee -- often, a committee of lawyers -- that will give left-wing judges the upper hand.
“The left can’t get their agenda through the legislatures anymore … so they think they can get their agenda through by taking over the courts,” attorney Colleen Pero, author of a new report titled "Hijacking Justice," told FoxNews.com.

Pero’s report found that Soros, through his Open Society Institute fund, has given $45 million over the last decade to “a campaign to reshape the judiciary.” But that number is hotly contested by Justice at Stake, the group that got the most Soros money.

“It’s a horrendously bogus distortion of numbers,” Charlie Hall, a spokesman for Justice at Stake, told FoxNews.com. Hall said the $45 million figure included groups that dealt with legal issues but had no position on merit selection. He added that he could only identify $2 million from Soros that went to groups that actively support replacing elections with “merit selection.”

In an analysis of the Open Society Institute's tax returns from the last ten years, FoxNews.com found more than $5 million was explicitly earmarked for projects about either "merit selection" or "judicial selection."

For example, OSI reported giving $90,000 to Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts in 2007 to "expand and grow a coalition in support of merit selection." It also reported giving $50,000 to Justice at Stake in 2006 to support "public education regarding merit selection."

OSI gave another $7 million-plus to Justice at Stake, or to partner organizations with specific directions to support JAS's activities.

Some recipients of Soros' money were eager to defend “merit selection,” and said they only wished Soros would give more money to the cause.

"We are very grateful for their support of our efforts," Marks said. Her group received more than $500,000 over the last decade, but has not received money from OSI since 2008.

Elections, she added, discourage competent lawyers from becoming judges just because they aren’t good politicians. “They don't put their name in for nominations because they think they don't have the political connections or access to dollars.”

And judges, she said, should be kept apart from political forces. “Judges should resolve disputes based on evidence -- they're not supposed to be responsive to public pressure.”

But Pero pointed to a study by prominent law professors that found elected judges were, if anything, more independent and took on larger workloads than judges appointed by committee.

"We began this project with the assumption that the data would demonstrate that appointed judges are better than elected judges," the authors note, adding that after looking at their result: "It may be that elected judges are, indeed, superior to appointed judges."

And, Pero says, “merit selection” is inherently undemocratic.

"It would be a handful lawyers who would select judges… with elections, the people actually have a say."

Marks said it is wrong to call the merit selection un-democratic.

"Merit selection requires a change in the Constitution, so a bill must... go before the public. So when people say, ‘oh, you're changing the way we vote’ -- yes, but only if the people want to change the way we vote."

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/06/27/critics-say-soros-trying-to-stack-courts/

Soros is sure a busy little beaver.

ChiefsCountry
06-30-2011, 03:02 PM
I hope he burns in hell.

Jenson71
06-30-2011, 03:07 PM
If I remember correctly, merit selection was long the tradition in this country until only recently. It's a principled viewpoint.

mikey23545
06-30-2011, 04:01 PM
If I remember correctly, merit selection was long the tradition in this country until only recently. It's a principled viewpoint.

Yes, the money of Soros should decide who is a judge, not an election...

Nice principled stand, you little Obama ballwasher.

Jenson71
06-30-2011, 04:09 PM
Yes, the money of Soros should decide who is a judge, not an election...

Nice principled stand, you little Obama ballwasher.

The principled stand is for merit selection. Soros is not deciding who is a judge.

Amnorix
06-30-2011, 07:27 PM
The federal government has always used a nomination/appointment system. Many states, including Massachusetts, use this system as well. Generally, I think by far the majority of lawyers would agree that this is a better system. Whether or not you couple it with lifetime appointment, the concept for the judiciary is to insulate it to a pretty fair degree from the passions of the electorate. You also want the absolute best candidates to serve as judges.

The other problem with elected judges -- in addition to potentially issuing judicial rulings with an eye towards reelection rather than what the law is -- is the very uneven quality of the judges. I had a situation recently where some VERY top-notch lawyers that we retained for a case in another state were literally apologizing up and down for the fact taht we had drawn, at random, a clueless bumbler of a judge. A guy who was popular and had been repeatedly re-elected even though the entire bar considered him an embarassment.

I honestly don't view merit systems as favoring liberals. Don't see why it would, really. The goal, as it was in the federal system, is to have a healthy third branch of government that is able to issue rulings on the law without fear of the momentary passions of the electorate.

mlyonsd
06-30-2011, 07:48 PM
The federal government has always used a nomination/appointment system. Many states, including Massachusetts, use this system as well. Generally, I think by far the majority of lawyers would agree that this is a better system. Whether or not you couple it with lifetime appointment, the concept for the judiciary is to insulate it to a pretty fair degree from the passions of the electorate. You also want the absolute best candidates to serve as judges.

The other problem with elected judges -- in addition to potentially issuing judicial rulings with an eye towards reelection rather than what the law is -- is the very uneven quality of the judges. I had a situation recently where some VERY top-notch lawyers that we retained for a case in another state were literally apologizing up and down for the fact taht we had drawn, at random, a clueless bumbler of a judge. A guy who was popular and had been repeatedly re-elected even though the entire bar considered him an embarassment.

I honestly don't view merit systems as favoring liberals. Don't see why it would, really. The goal, as it was in the federal system, is to have a healthy third branch of government that is able to issue rulings on the law without fear of the momentary passions of the electorate.

Totally disagree. We elect the other two branches of government, the voting public should at least help control the third, even if it is in a limited manner.

Iowa is a perfect example. Not all law is cut in black and white....it's the grey area voters should help decide.

All I have to do is ask why Soros cares enough to spend any dollars on the issue, which makes me question the goals of a merit system.

Amnorix
06-30-2011, 07:50 PM
Totally disagree. We elect the other two branches of government, the voting public should at least help control the third, even if it is a limited manner.

Iowa is a perfect example. Not all law is cut in black and white....it's the grey area voters should help decide.

You are obviously entitled to your opinion, but most lawyers will disagree because they want consistency in rulings to the degree possible, and high quality judges, and election process doesn't help with either of those.

I'm never a fan of founding father reliance, but they would disagree also, as seen by the federal court set up. Hell, they didn't even want the unwashed masses electing the Senate... (Constitution had state legislators electing Senators for many, many years until it was amended).

mlyonsd
06-30-2011, 09:31 PM
You are obviously entitled to your opinion, but most lawyers will disagree because they want consistency in rulings to the degree possible, and high quality judges, and election process doesn't help with either of those.

I'm never a fan of founding father reliance, but they would disagree also, as seen by the federal court set up. Hell, they didn't even want the unwashed masses electing the Senate... (Constitution had state legislators electing Senators for many, many years until it was amended).Maybe the military should determine their own battles too because they know best their capabilities.

I'm a skeptical person by nature, so when a lawyer says "most lawyers will disagree...." a flag goes off in my brain. And if Soros is throwing money into a cause that flag turns into a flare.

If founding fathers are a measuring stick they allowed slavery to contninue as far as I can tell. My point is at some level the voting public should have a say in the third branch of government.

Not trying to be a dick here....we just disagree.

Amnorix
07-01-2011, 06:34 AM
Maybe the military should determine their own battles too because they know best their capabilities.

I'm a skeptical person by nature, so when a lawyer says "most lawyers will disagree...." a flag goes off in my brain. And if Soros is throwing money into a cause that flag turns into a flare.[/quote]

Lawyers get no profit, direct or indirect, from whether judges are elected or appointed. IMHO the quality of judges is higher on an appointment basis, and that's good for everyone.

Soros -- I'm sure he thinks it benefits liberals. Not sure how, but I haven't spent a mountain of time/money analyzing it either.


If founding fathers are a measuring stick they allowed slavery to contninue as far as I can tell. My point is at some level the voting public should have a say in the third branch of government.

Not trying to be a dick here....we just disagree.

Nah, never thought you were being a dick. Reasonable minds can differ on this. IMHO the public gets its say by electing the Prez/governor. You just calculate into your vote the type of judges, generally, you want, as a factor. But, as I say, reasonable minds can differ. IIRC, the states are nearly split on their methods, with slightly more doing the nomination/appointment method over direct voting.

I'm not big on founding father arguments, as you know, but part of their philosophy was to keep some sectors of government from the "passion of masses", as it were. I'm not sure how many founders agreed with that position*, but I know at least John Adams did, and seemingly Madison from how the US Constitution was set up.


*One of the worst things about "founding father" arguments is the assumption that the agreed on much of anything. In fact, the founding fathers disagreed just as much as today's politicians on pretty much every issue. Beware, therefore, any argument that begins with "the Founding Fathers wanted..."

mlyonsd
07-01-2011, 07:09 AM
Nah, never thought you were being a dick. Reasonable minds can differ on this. IMHO the public gets its say by electing the Prez/governor. You just calculate into your vote the type of judges, generally, you want, as a factor. But, as I say, reasonable minds can differ. IIRC, the states are nearly split on their methods, with slightly more doing the nomination/appointment method over direct voting.

I'm not big on founding father arguments, as you know, but part of their philosophy was to keep some sectors of government from the "passion of masses", as it were. I'm not sure how many founders agreed with that position*, but I know at least John Adams did, and seemingly Madison from how the US Constitution was set up.


*One of the worst things about "founding father" arguments is the assumption that the agreed on much of anything. In fact, the founding fathers disagreed just as much as today's politicians on pretty much every issue. Beware, therefore, any argument that begins with "the Founding Fathers wanted..."Fair enough.

I can't imagine how awesome it would have been to sit in the corner of Independence Hall when they were arguing things out?

Otter
07-01-2011, 07:15 AM
Generally, I think by far the majority of lawyers would agree that this is a better system.

:thumb: