Note to readers: The following is an open letter in response to a recent column by Jim Nowlan.
Dear Dr. Nowlan:
Your recent syndicated article “If court won’t change, change court,” appears to suggest that voters should decide non-partisan judicial retention elections based on party affiliation alone.
I am sure you don’t mean that any unknown Republican is a better choice than the retention of a Democratic judge. I recognize your views are more sophisticated than that, and I ask to share another view, too.
Increasing efforts to make judicial elections more partisan are dangerous for judicial independence. Parties and interest groups seek greater influence in judicial elections at a time when we need less of that.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts has recently cautioned about the danger of viewing judges as Democrat or Republican judges. “What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them. That independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for,” he said.
The recent decisions on public employee pensions were unanimous. The decisions on retirement health insurance was near unanimous. It isn’t fair to view them as partisan.
Of course, a political columnist shares political views about elections. But you’ve also written that “Ideology thrives on rigidity; it is not good at governance.” Please share the view that judges should be judged on their work, and it is possible for decent minds to disagree about a case. Let’s work to minimize a politicized approach to the judiciary.
Judge John Coady (retired)
Note to readers: Judge Coady is the immediate past president of the Illinois Judges Association.