In part one of this epistle, I wrote an entertaining sermon about the voodoo science underlying the non-partisan election of judges to the Circuit Court here in Jefferson County. As a noted amateur expert in the field, I offered my unbiased opinion that while in the modern history of the Circuit Court we have been very fortunate to have had so many qualified candidates elected to the bench, the growing decline in interest in judicial races could certainly bring about ill fortune in the near future. Those of you who share my concern may nevertheless be clearly confused about what can be done to keep this common phenomenon from spreading. Thinking out loud to myself I came up with what I believe are three terribly good suggestions.
NUMBER ONE: Don’t do nothing. Judicial candidates spend the long hours leading up to election day trying to motivate passionately indifferent voters. It can be a lonely road filled with sharp curves. Every candidate needs a small army of supporters to travel that road with them. You don’t need to make judicial elections your full-time hobby or sign on as a paid volunteer for every Tom, Dick and Harry Blackmun who aspires to the bench, but you can do something. Slap a bumper sticker on the window of your car. Plant a yard sign in your driveway. Sport a long-sleeved tee shirt with your candidate’s name on it. It may not make the difference in who wins the election - but it might. In any event, it’s a safe bet that it will make a huge difference to the hard-working person you’re working hard to get elected.
NUMBER B: Provide a tangible $ign of your affection. Free elections are expensive. Even a spend thrift will run through a small fortune over the course of a Circuit Court race. In a country where money is speech - money talks. Because a campaign with a lack of funds is going nowhere, outside income is necessary to get your voice heard by the voting public. Raising those funds is no easy task and every judicial candidate’s least favorite thing to do. This is so even though the voluntary regulations governing judicial races preclude the candidate from directly soliciting contributions. You can lighten his or her load by lightening your wallet.
NUMBER THREE: Phone a friend. The simple math is that there are about 475,000 eligible voters in Jefferson County. Exact estimates are that approximately half of those eligible voters will vote in each Circuit Court race. The winning candidate is the person who can secure the bigger half of those votes. Given that the vast majority of this group of individuals are absolutely unsure who to vote for, the real magic is in significantly increasing the enormously small cadre of informed voters. Lawyers stand alone in the crowd because they are familiar with what a judge does and have at least a preliminary conclusion as to which candidates are well-suited to the job. This common difference makes lawyers uniquely qualified to tell people who don’t know, but who want to know, who to vote for. Every lawyer has the ability to share that untold story with others. As such, they have the opportunity/obligation to phone, text, tweet, snapchat, instant message or use whatever means of personalized mass communication available to them to share what they think they know.
To make a long story short, while there is no foolproof plan to make the Circuit Court election process more perfect, there are lots of things members of the bar should be doing on the front end to even the odds that the most able candidates are also the most electable. If we in the legal community continue to turn a blind eye towards the quiet storm that is brewing, then we will have no one to blame but ourselves if it all goes exactly wrong. We will be the oxymorons who let this minor crisis happen.
If you include “aspire to the bench,” then there are sixty-two (62) oxymorons hiding in plain sight in essay. Knowing how little people enjoy being lectured, I wrote this essay this way in the hope that reader would realize that there is something they can/should be doing and that they might be thinking about the problem while they are looking for the solution. Please feel free to e-mail your educated guesses to me and I will send you the Answer Key. Good luck.