One way or another, judicial elections remain problematic. By and large, judges and many lawyers prefer a merit selection and retention system and not the rough and tumble of election campaigns. But while voters don’t necessarily like the perceived influence political contributors gain by donating to campaigning judges, they’re also not so quick to give up their open election rights. Many believe it’s important to hold judges accountable, especially today when so much of our public discourse is hyper-partisan and single-issue, agenda-driven. The long simmering debate between judicial independence versus judicial accountability continues.
Back in Nevada, the legislature has put on the ballot this November, a merit selection and retention plan called SJR 2, which asks Nevada voters to amend the Nevada Constitution to switch open judicial races to appointments, followed by elections in which voters would decide whether to retain a judge. The plan goes to a public vote this Fall.
According to an article in the Las Vegas Sun, “Supporters say the appointment process would result in more qualified judges and remove the influence of campaign money over legal decisions. Opponents argue the process would place the selection of judges in the hands of a few and strip the public of voting rights.”
SJR2 proponents want to eliminate the perception that justice can be bought by political contributors. They like quoting Ohio Supreme Court Justice Paul E. Pfeifer who said,’‘I never felt so much like a hooker down by the bus station in any race I’ve ever been in as I did in a judicial race. Everyone interested in contributing has very specific interests.”
A few years ago, the Los Angeles Times took a tough luck at the courts in Clark County, Nevada in their Juice vs. Justice investigative series, see, for example, In Las Vegas, They’re Playing With a Stacked Judicial Deck.
“Do not vote for my dad!”
But while judges may not like campaigning for all the above-mentioned reasons, they also don’t enjoy the political attacks, the mudslinging and the infighting. And I’m not talking about nastiness from the electorate or judicial opponents. In McClain County, Oklahoma, I’m talking about acrimony from your own family. In McClain County, the attacks against John Mantooth, a candidate for district judge and a current municipal court judge are coming from the judge’s own daughter and his son-in-law.
Mantooth’s daughter, Jan Schill, and son-in-law, Andrew Schill, are publicly campaigning against him in the media, see Daughter urges Okla. voters to not vote for father, via a newspaper ad, and most tellingly, through their blog. Andrew Schill is a lawyer and ought to be especially wary because Lawyers Can’t Say Unkind Things About Judges. Jan Schill has worked in the court system in one capacity or another, too.
In her July 20, 2010 post, Jan Schill writes:
“District 21 judicial candidate John Mantooth is not a good father, not a good grandfather and in my opinion a review of his 37 year record as an attorney in Cleveland, Garvin and McClain Counties reveals that he would not be a good judge.
Click the links below for more information:”
According to news reports, the bitterness stems from the 1981 divorce of Jan’s parents in Mantooth v. Mantooth – Divorce # 1.
Judge Mantooth said, “This is a family issue which should have been kept private. I’m very sad about this. I’m very disappointed. I’m hurt, but I love my daughter, and I want things to get better, and I hope they will.”