Why Do We Even Bother Voting For Judges?

Chaps my hide every election.

Dr. Know is on vacation—a vacation from sobriety, that is—until the stress of this long-anticipated election has passed. In the meantime, enjoy this column from Nov. 10, 2016, in which he predicts (sort of) our current "hellscape of abominations." Trump: like if Cthulhu were stupid!

Why do we even bother voting for judges? As far as I can tell, when positions are vacated, they're filled by appointment, and the judges run unopposed forever after. Chaps my hide every election.—Disgruntled Defendant

I'm writing this before Election Day, so I have no idea whether you're reading this newspaper in the rational universe we've always known, or huddling under it for warmth in a post-apocalyptic hellscape of abominations in which the living envy the dead.

But by the time you read these words, the die will have been cast one way or the other. All I can do is pray that the crucible of suffering that is Multnomah County Measure 26-184, "Charter Review Committee Reform," did not come to pass.

But I know that's not why you wrote me, Disgruntled. Read on, and I'll do my best to gruntle you.

Your criticism of judicial elections as shams of democracy is not far wrong—vacancies come up midterm, the governor taps a replacement, and that judge faces the next election with the benefit of incumbency.

Why? Some say it would be awkward for a lawyer to run against a judge whom he might later see in court. Others note that successful lawyers make more money than judges.

But let's get real—the main reason we try to keep judgeships out of voters' hands is because voters are shitheads who make no effort to learn about down-ticket races, usually voting for whomever has the cooler-sounding name.

The polite fiction that judges are democratically elected, as retired Oregon Supreme Court Justice Hans Linde once observed, allows lawmakers to "defend their 19th-century populist principles at little cost in actual practice."

But you can make them pay that cost! County and municipal judges are not required to be members of the Oregon State Bar, meaning small-time meth cooks like you can totally run. Just change your name to something like "Daniel T. Justice," find a sitting judge with a name like "Myron Finkelstein," and get measured for that robe. See you in court!