Rose Bird BACK

Judges Running for Confirmation

Pro   Con

The purpose of confirmation elections is to remove judges who are unfit to carry out the responsibilities of their job, not to remove judges whose decisions voters disagree with.1 The current judicial confirmation election campaign has become a partisan political battle, with special interest groups spending millions of dollars to unseat Chief Justice Bird.2


Supreme Court justices who are appointed to their posts, like those public officials selected through the electoral process, should be subject to the will of the voters. The California State Constitution, by providing for the judicial confirmation elections, gives the public the right to review and vote on the performance of the state's judges.3

AMA Commentary

Article VI, Section 16, of the California Constitution gives eligible voters the right to select judges.4

In 1934, when California's voters approved the state constitutional amendment that instituted judicial confirmation elections, the voter pamphlet argument in favor of the elections stated, "One of the chief obstacles to the proper administration of justice in California today is the fact that our judicial offices have become prizes to be fought for in the political arena, rather than positions of trust and confidence. For the protection of both the judges themselves and of society, they must be freed from political influence. To bring this about, it is proposed to make these offices selective, and the tenure of judges subject to the will of the people...The issue would not be whether the judge spent 25 percent of his time in political activities, as he must today, but whether he had given to the people the honest, intelligent, and fearless service they have a right to expect; and the voter would have a power...of casting a vote for or against one particular candidate on the basis of his fitness for office." There was no voter pamphlet argument against the elections.5 Although the spirit and intent of the 1934 law was to free the judiciary from partisan political influences, there is nothing in the law that prohibits people from voting for or against the justices for any reason.

The three major groups opposing Chief Justice Rose Bird raised $3,337,179 in 1985: Californians to Defeat Rose Bird, $2,504,847; Crime Victims for Court Reform, $406,983; Law and Order Campaign Committee, $425,394. Chief Justice Bird's re-election committee (Committee to Conserve the Courts) raised $1,122,191.6

Chief Justice Bird is in favor of confirmation elections for judges.7

1 Falk, Jerome B., President, San Francisco Bar Association, "Judges Should Only Be Removed If Incompetent or Unethical," California Journal, June 1985, pp. 248 and 250
2 Los Angeles Times, "Bird Foes Fall $1 Million Short of '85 Money Goal," by Frank Clifford, February 5, 1986, 1:3.
3 Governor George Deukmejian, speech delivered to the California District Attorneys Association Conference, July 11, 1985, p. 3.
4 California Constitution, Article VI, Section 16.
5 1934 California Voter's Pamphlet,p. 8, signed by Rufus B. Von Klemsmed, President, University of Southern California, and Mrs. Duncan S. Robinson, Vice-President-at-Large, California Federal of Women's Clubs.
6 Figures provided by Los Angeles County Registrar's office, March 7, 1986. At the beginning of 1986, Crime Victims for Court Reform merged with Californians to Defeat Rose Bird to form the California Coalition for Court Reform.
7 Los Angeles Times, "Chief Justice Bird on Voters and the Court," by Lee Dembart, March 16, 1986, V: p.1.