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Judicial Politics: Making the Case for Merit Selection

8 Pages Posted: 3 May 2011  

Steven Zeidman

CUNY School of Law

Date Written: 2005


Judicial selection is on the national radar screen. This Essay argues that merit selection judicial appointment is more likely than judicial elections to ensure a judiciary that is qualified, inclusive and independent. The Essay discusses the purported goals of judicial elections, and highlights the negative consequences that have resulted, including expensive and polarizing campaigns and the influence of special interest groups. Empirical data demonstrates that voters in New York City rarely vote for judges, undermining the civic participation and judicial accountability rationales that elections aim to promote. Lack of voter participation has the further negative consequence of giving political party leaders significant power over the judicial election process.

The Essay promotes the implementation of the judicial appointment system, specifically the merit selection system where a diverse nominating commission solicits and interviews applicants and produces a list of approved candidates from which the Executive must select. In both process and yield measures, merit selection is a superior method than judicial elections for yielding a qualified, inclusive and independent judiciary. The merit selection process is less political and therefore more independent than elections. Over the past twenty five years in New York City, the appointive system has produced a more diverse judiciary, and one with far fewer instances of judicial misconduct than a comparable group of elected judges.

Keywords: Judicial selection, merit selection, judicial appointment, diverse judiciary, judicial misconduct

Suggested Citation

Zeidman, Steven, Judicial Politics: Making the Case for Merit Selection (2005). Albany Law Review, Vol. 68, p. 713, 2005. Available at SSRN:

Steven Zeidman (Contact Author)

CUNY School of Law ( email )

2 Court Square
Long Island City, NY
United States

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