Calif. chief justice tiring of judicial elections

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Dec 2, 2010


SAN FRANCISCO (Legal Newsline) - California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald George in an interview Wednesday suggested it might be time to stop electing state Supreme Court justices, and instead appoint them to a single term of 15 years.

George, who announced his retirement in July, made the declaration in his last annual meeting with reporters, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Last month, voters confirmed appeals Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye to become chief justice in January.

George, in his interview with reporters, pointed to last month's Iowa Supreme Court elections, in which voters ousted three justices who helped make same-sex marriage in the state legal.

While all seven justices on the Court ruled with Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and Justices David Baker and Michael Streit, those three were the only ones whose seats were up for retention. None of them received the 50 percent "yes" vote needed to remain on the bench.

Each of the three justices simply needed more "yes" than "no" votes to be elected for another eight-year term.

The three faced no opponents, and none of the judges raised money for the campaign.

The vote marks the first time a member of the Iowa Supreme Court has been rejected by the voters under the current system that began in 1962.

The California chief justice said, according to the Chronicle, the results were "dismaying."

As a result of the Iowa election, George told reporters, judges might become more concerned with staying in office and that could be reflected in their rulings.

He suggested states appoint high court justices to 15-year terms, with an additional term for an appointee who is elevated to chief justice.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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