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Mercury News editorial: Court's integrity was at stake in Ritchie race

Posted By Administration, Friday, November 7, 2014

Every now and then, voters have to judiciously correct a mistake. This is what happened Tuesday in the Santa Clara County Superior Court race between Judge Diane Ritchie, who is finishing her first six-year term, and her challenger Matthew Harris, a respected prosecutor. Harris unseated Ritchie, winning the judgeship with 54 percent of the vote.

Since Ritchie's performance became an issue last winter, she and some supporters have portrayed the case against her as a personal vendetta. We'd like to be clear, before putting this sad case behind us, why reporting on judges' performance is critical -- and why elections for judge are among the most important for voters, even though rules for judicial campaigning limit what they're likely to learn about the candidates. This is why we always try to evaluate judicial candidates and help voters figure out who's who, even if they don't agree with our recommendation.

This rare instance of challenging a sitting judge came about largely because reporter Tracey Kaplan began writing about Ritchie's performance last winter. Over a five-year period, Kaplan had observed and been told by court staff about the judge's blunders and the court's repeated attempts to train and mentor her. Kaplan held off writing, giving her time to learn and improve. But Ritchie never caught on, and her re-election was approaching.

Read the whole story at The Mercury News


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