Louisiana voters are more interested in politics than citizens in other states. Before we go to the polls, we like to have as much information as possible about the various candidates on the ballot. And as in other southern states, the Republican Party has gained strength as Democrat strength was waned. To a great extent, this is because voters focused on the issues, and the candidates’ party affiliation was considered a major issue. 

Louisiana Democrats have lost all but two statewide elections in the last two election cycles. Outside of a few urban areas, it’s difficult to win as a Democrat. So now comes a new plan, a bill by Rep. Kyle Green (D-Marrero), HB206, to help elect Democrats to judgeships. When he presented the bill to the Louisiana House, Rep. Green claimed that he wanted to make judicial elections “non-partisan” by removing party labels from the ballots of candidates in judicial elections. The practical effects of this plan would be anything but non-partisan, however.

Judges in a few states are appointed by politicians, but the people are responsible for electing judges in most states, including Louisiana. Does it not obviously follow that the people should have the maximum amount of information about candidates when making our choices for the judiciary?

The voters rightly wish to know about the previous career, and where applicable, the previously decided cases of a judicial candidate. Voters want to know the judicial philosophy of a candidate, and what is a candidate’s judicial philosophy but a lifetime of experience seen through the prism of his or her legal training? And party affiliation is an indicator of one’s judicial philosophy, not the only one certainly, but a fairly good one. 

As judges must rule on the law and make findings of fact in cases where juries are not tasked with this duty, doesn’t the public have a right to know a candidate’s judicial philosophy? Is it right to remove party labels, which are significant indicators of one’s judicial philosophy, from the public on Election Day? Of course not.

LAGOP Chairman Louis Gurvich, an attorney, recently reminded us that state court judges rule on the vast majority of criminal cases. Researchers consistently find that upwards of 95% of all felony convictions occur in state courts, and the percentage of rape and murder convictions handled by state courts edges into the high nineties. Doesn’t the public have a right to know whether a candidate’s judicial philosophy may predispose him or her to be “soft on crime” or “tough on crime?” At this moment the two major political parties have starkly different judicial philosophies, and the public has a right to know where the candidates stand on the issues. Knowing a candidate’s party affiliation is therefore important to the voters.

The voters are charged with selecting our judges, and the voters have the right to the maximum amount of information when making their choices. Besides, as Rep. Valerie Hodges (R-Denham Springs) recently said, “Any judge who wishes to avoid a party label can easily do so by running as a ‘no-party’ candidate.”

Let’s keep our judicial elections as they are, with party labels attached to those judicial candidates who choose to run with a party affiliation.

Grant Scheeringa is the Interim Executive Director of the Republican Party of Louisiana

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.