Thursday, November 30, 2006

There's Macon justice, then there's Savannah justice, and then there's Athens justice . . .

From Jay Bookman, in the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

Officially, court races are nonpartisan in Georgia, on the theory that justice and the law are not subject to partisan ideology. But a lot of Georgia Republicans - and more importantly, their biggest financial backers - don't agree with that approach. They want a judiciary that will do their bidding, and to get it they worked hard to defeat Hunstein and install Wiggins as their hand-picked candidate.

But it didn't work. Perdue got almost 58 percent of the vote in his race, but the "activist liberal judge" did even better, with Hunstein pulling 63 percent of the vote. Georgians clearly voted in favor of keeping the judiciary independent, rejecting the GOP's effort to turn the state judiciary into its partisan playtoy.

But some Republicans apparently aren't willing to respect the will of the people. Unable to convince Georgians to elect their handpicked candidate, they are eyeing a change in state law that would let Perdue pack the court with two new justices of his own choosing.

One change would make all judicial races partisan, forcing judicial candidates to run not on their qualifications but on their party loyalties. Another would divide the state into judicial districts, so that each part of the state would get to elect its own Supreme Court justice. According to Goessling, that would produce "representative government," which is a fine concept in legislative matters but odd to say the least in a judicial setting, as if different parts of Georgia have different interpretations of the law.

At a time when it seems that voters cast their ballot on the basis of "values" - which are, at least, statewide concerns - the use of districts to elect the state legislature seems ridiculous. It's even more ridiculous to regress to such a system for the Supreme Court.