"Justice for Sale" (Summer 2012) addresses an important problem in some states, that of the influence--real and perceived--of campaign contributions on the independence of a state's elected judges. I emphasize some since--as the article's writer, Lincoln Caplan, notes in calling for a "campaign to replace judicial elections with merit selection"--merit selection committees now operate in 35 states and the District of Columbia.
Equally to be emphasized is the difference in this regard between the state judiciaries and the federal judiciary. The long-standing tradition in the states has been to elect judges, on the theory that this would promote judicial independence by separating judges from the potentially corrupting influence of the governors and the state legislatures. By contrast, the constitutional tradition governing the federal judiciary is nomination by the president and confirmation by the Senate.
Robert Wilson correctly observes in the issue's Editor's Note that "it's impossible to contemplate that the brown-paper-bag sort of corruption ... is at work in the chambers of the highest court." But he then adds, "Look at courts a little lower, though, as Lincoln Caplan does." However, neither the editor nor the author takes note of the more than 800 lower court federal judges (trial and...