Judges in an Election Year
Election years are important for the courts; they cause some big changes across all levels. This year is a major election year that will impact the courts, but what about judges? How do elections affect them?
Last month’s blog was about how 2020 is a year for the record books and that the general election on November 3rd will be a big one. We’ve also explained why this year’s election is so important due to the U.S. Supreme Court. But elections affect the courts in a smaller (but just as important) way.
How Elections Affect Judges
Judges are affected by elections in a variety of ways. First, some judges are elected to their position through partisan or nonpartisan elections. Other judges are appointed to their positions. If judges are nominated on the ballot in a partisan election, their party is visible and is sometimes a determining factor amongst voters.
The way a judge obtains their position also affects their rulings. In fact, data shows that judges who are appointed are oftentimes more lenient with their rulings and are more likely to go against their political party’s standpoint on an issue compared to elected judges.
Judicial elections aren’t the only elections that impact judges. Presidential, congressional, and state elections are just as important and impactful to judges. They influence their rulings, whether judges realize it or not. One study found that presidential elections affect the rate at which Courts of Appeals judges dissent, affirm, or reverse District Court decisions, and vote and set precedent along partisan lines. The study also found that U.S. Senate elections further increase dissents and that these dissents are at higher rates in swing states that are pivotal for the general election. Essentially, there is a higher rate of dissent in election years, especially in states that are swing-states.
Code of Conduct for Judges
All U.S. judges are required to abide and act by a Code of Conduct. This code of conduct varies from level-to-level and from state-to-state, but they all include canons about the ethics of judges and the way they should rule (which is fairly and impartially). The federal code of conduct has a specific canon that states no judge should be swayed by outside influence, including political affiliation.
Judges, for the most part, remain impartial and bipartisan when deciding rulings. This article from NPR explains that judges are still human and that this influx of dissent during election years is most likely a subconscious choice. However, 2020 is a major election year and the data shows that there is a difference in rulings and dissents in election years. We want you to be informed of anything that may impact your case/claim.
All of the information we’ve shared with you the past few weeks about elections and their impacts on the U.S. court system are all reasons why you should use your voice and vote. No matter what your political affiliation is, it’s important to make sure that the judges who rule the courts on all levels—from the U.S. Supreme Court to district courts—are impartial or that the board of judges is balanced and fair. Make sure you utilize your right to vote on November 3rd.