The Wall Street Journal published an editorial today discussing a ballot initiative in Nevada that would switch the state from judicial elections to the "Missouri plan" for selecting judges, in which a nominating commission chooses a slate of judicial candidates from which the Governor picks. The authors argue that George Soros and others are financing the effort to push through such initiatives because "merit selection," which allows bar associations and lawyers to nominate judges from their own ranks, tends to move state courts to the "activist left."
The editorial contends that selection by a judicial nominating panel is just as political as selection by Nevada voters:
Judicial elections aren't always pretty, but they do provide an important check on a branch of government that has itself become increasingly political. A system in which Governors can nominate anyone subject to legislative approval can also work, as it does for the federal courts.
But the worst system is to subcontract the third branch of government to a judicial elite who give elected officials little leeway. While parading as "merit" selections, these judges are political choices as much as any elected by voters. Nevada voters should send a message that their judiciary can't be bought.
On the other hand, in an editorial recommending that voters adopt the initiative, the Las Vegas Sun argues that "(t)he issue is whether the public vote is the best way to select judges, and in our view, it hasn't produced the best judges." According to this editorial, selection of judges by the Nevada Governor due to vacancies has consistently produced better judges than those chosen by voters.