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Recent Developments in Judicial Elections in the United States and their Impact on Impartiality of Judges

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Chapter Summary

Writing on impartiality in 1966, Jeffrey M. Sharman emphasized that "Judges are expected to be impartial arbiters so those legal disputes are decided according to the law free from the influence of bias or prejudice, or political pressure". This chapter focuses on the selection of judges in thirty one of the fifty states in the US which use partisan or non-partisan elections to select some or all of their judges. Concerns relating to the politicization of such elections and their impact on the impartiality of judges have increased after two landmark US Supreme Court decisions in the past decade. There is no doubt that special restrictions on judicial candidates deny them opportunity to speak about some of the questions that may be most significant to their candidacies. One approach to restoring public confidence is strengthening the norms for disqualification and recusal.

Keywords: judicial elections; judicial impartiality; non-partisan elections; US Supreme Court



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