Retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, a Reagan-appointed U.S. Supreme Court Justice, is troubled by a court system that gives special interests great influence on the decisions of the courts. An independent court system is necessary to curb the influence of big money on the government. Dependence on campaign contributions for election creates an opportunity for moneyed interests to undermine the intended independence of judges. Justice O’Connor has spent much of her two years of retirement promoting the urgent need for re-establishing judicial independence in states where the level of campaign contributions plays a significant role in the selection of judges, states such as Washington.
Ironically Justice O’Connor became a trial judge in Arizona through an election, but happily saw Arizona replace that system with a merit system shortly before her appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. She commented in a November speech that the quality of the Arizona judicial system appreciably improved with the new selection system.
Her second wish was that prosecutors and defense lawyers should be similarly trained and paid, and that they should periodically trade places, going from one side to the other. This she said is how it works in England, something that I didn’t know.