Here is what we know for sure! These are the things we know are broken -- IN LIFE:
- The Entire Criminal Justice System: The New York Times reported last week that the Unites States Senate Judiciary Committee appointed a Blue-Ribbon commission to decide if our entire criminal justice system is in need of an overhaul. "A broad consensus has emerged that the system is broken," according to the article.
Further, the Innocence Project has exonerated 251 people through post-conviction DNA evidence. 17 of these were on death row.
- The Entire Banking System -- The current financial meltdown confirms that the entire United States banking systems are dysfunctional. Here is what happened. Five men with outsized egos including President Clinton and Alan Greenspan decided that a lonely, intellectual woman attorney was not as smart as they were.
- The Entire Political System: Write to your Congressperson?? Give me a break!! For the last three years I have literally written hundreds of letters to political representatives near and far, including, at his invitation, President Obama. The only one to give a personalized specific response was Senator Jeff Merkley.
What is really disappointing is the current Health Care Reform debate. What is painfully clear is that both sides are being paid off by the local lobbyist. Regular citizens do not have a seat at the table.
- The Entire Legal System: We are here to address Goal #2 of the state's highest court's four-year plan. Goal # 2 of that plan is: "Maintain Public Trust and Confidence" But first, how do we know the public has confidence in our legal system to maintain. We don't. However, the University of Chicago Law School has rated the Oregon appellate courts at the bottom of the barrel in a comprehensive national study in 2008. Why should we trust a court that is rated at the bottom of the barrel?
THE FIX -- How do we fix our legal system? It is a two step process:
STEP #1 -- ENSURE JUDGES ARE ELECTED AND NOT APPOINTED IN CIRCUMVENTION OF THE LAW AND THE STATE CONSTITUTION which requires that our judiciary be elected by the people.
Oregon’s best kept secret: Oregon’s Constitution requires that judges “shall be elected” by the voters of the state. (Article VII, Section 1). However, “Most judicial positions are filled by gubernatorial appointment.” (Oregon State Bar Committee on the Judiciary 2004)
When Ted Kulongoski became governor in 2003 one the first things he did was to coordinate how his office could circumvent the Oregon Constitution. Thus, the Governor’s Office came up with a policy statement “Judicial Appointment Process for Circuit Court Vacancies,” dated March 31, 2004.
The Oregon State Bar described the process as follows in their May 24, 2004 memo for the Committee on the Judiciary:
“…voters have very little information to assist them in deciding who to vote for between competing judicial candidates. ***”…sitting judges should be more receptive to feedback from the bar membership as to how well others perceive them to be performing their judicial duties.”
In short, the governor is selecting judges in Oregon instead of the public. If the fix is in coming from the highest political officer of the state, what chance does a qualified judicial candidate have who is not politically connected?
If a judge owes their fealty to a politician instead of the people why should they follow the rule of law. They don’t.
STEP #2 -- STATEWIDE FORMAL EVALUATIONS OF ALL JUDGES.
What is needed is a sophisticated, comprehensive, formal, statewide system of judicial performance evaluations. Our judge's leaders don’t want to be formally evaluated, yet they are asking you for raises. Our top judge claims that his department is accountable to the people; transparent and fair, but he does not want to be formally evaluated. Yet he wants you to give him and his brethren/sisteren raises. Only through a statewide formal system of judicial performance evaluations will the people have information upon which to base their vote for judges -- that are supposed to be elected in Oregon. But are not.
IN SUMMARY -- Oregon’s judiciary believes the public has trust and confidence in the state’s legal system but there is no feedback system to determine if that is true.
FEEDBACK -- Write to me, EMAIL me, post a comment here and let me know if you have trust and confidence in your local legal machinery.
3980 SW 170th Ave.
Aloha, OR 97007 firstname.lastname@example.org
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