This fall, Arizonans will have more information than ever about judges. The Center for Arizona Policy (CAP) recently sent questions about judicial philosophy to 50 judges up for reelection. By answering those questions, judges will provide citizens with a clear picture of where they stand on pertinent issues of law and justice.
Free speech hasn't always been commonplace in the judiciary. In fact, the Arizona Code of Judicial Conduct forbids judges from speaking out about "issues that are likely to come before the court." But the U.S. Supreme Court recently held that judicial conduct clauses like this are unconstitutional, thereby permitting judges to answer the questions at issue here.
Judges confront a smorgasbord of issues from domestic violence to the international rule of law. Prior restrictions on judicial speech have kept Arizonans in the dark when it comes to important information relevant to judicial retention elections.
Political discussion should be robust, not shushed. Democracy requires that voters understand the philosophy of public officials, even judges. CAP's questionnaire and the Goldwater Institute's 2005 review of the Arizona Supreme Court are welcome accountability measures for the judicial branch.
Benjamin Barr is a constitutional policy analyst with the Goldwater Institute Center for Constitutional Studies.
-East Valley Tribune: "Group seeks judges' political opinions"
-Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, 536 U.S. 765 (2002)
-Arizona Code of Judicial Conduct
-Goldwater Institute: "Judging the Justices: A Review of the Arizona Supreme Court, 2003-2004"