It's time California considered appointing rather than electing judges.
The latest example of conduct more likely to surface when judges are picked by popular election is that of newly elected Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Stuart Scott, who is accused of violating the code of ethics on judicial conduct.
Through no fault of their own, voters have little basis upon which to identify the best candidate in a judicial campaign.
Scott's conduct reportedly ranged from eye-rolling in court to dissing the defense attorney in a private conversation with Deputy District Attorney Kelly Meeker. Mercury News staff writer Tracey Kaplan reported that Meeker told her supervisor about Scott's conduct, and District Attorney Jeff Rosen's office promptly followed its ethical obligation to report it to the Public Defender's Office and the presiding judge.
The Commission on Judicial Performance may review Scott's conduct.
It may be possible for Scott to recover and adopt appropriate courtroom behavior. He is intelligent and knows the law.
This was not the case with former Judge Diane Ritchie, who was elected in 2008 and unseated last fall by former prosecutor Matt Harris after this newspaper exposed Ritchie's general incompetence. The courts had struggled for six years to help her learn the job, and ultimately the county bar association declared her unqualified for re-election.
From the perspective of defendants, plaintiffs and attorneys, it's hard to say which of these cases is worse: an apparently clueless judge or a smart one who telegraphs bias.
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