Elections for the State Supreme Court

Senator Mitch Seabaugh is proposing a constitutional amendment that would change the way we vote for the members of the Georgia Supreme Court:

Sen. Mitch Seabaugh (R-Sharpsburg) on Wednesday filed a proposed constitutional amendment that would get rid of statewide elections for supreme court justices. Instead, voters in each of the state’s 13 Congressional districts would vote for a single justice who lives within that district. The same would be true for the state Court of Appeals.

Seabaugh said he believes that districtwide elections would allow Georgia voters to get to know the candidates seeking a seat on the state’s highest court. He said he thinks voters would become more engaged in judicial elections, which until recently drew very little attention or turnout. Seabaugh also said that districtwide elections might reduce the political bitterness that has characterized several recent Supreme Court judicial races.

“There’s a much better chance of voters getting to know who they’re going to vote for and not just having to rely on negative mailings and political ads,” Seabaugh said.

E.R. Lanier, a law professor at Georgia State University, disagrees. He said he believes that Senate Resolution 370, if approved, could lead to an increase in the political rancor of judicial elections.

“Sure, the idea of districts would give smaller constituent groups more say in judicial elections,” Lanier said. “But since 1835, the safest, most sure way has been statewide elections.”

It’s a slightly better idea than the FDR-esque court packing scheme that had been floated, but why try to fix an electoral process that isn’t broken?

7 comments

  1. bowersville says:

    In the article Sen. Seabaugh goes on to explain that he prefers getting rid of elections and he likes the way U. S. Supreme Court Justices are appointed and then confirmed by the U. S. Senate.

    I agree, I like the idea of Georgia Supreme Court Justices being appointed by the Governor and then a confirmation process by the State Senate.

    I favor Justices being elected to the Georgia Court of Appeals, one from each congressional district with the residency requirement. This would only require the addition of one Judge to the Appeals Court.

  2. Bill Simon says:

    Thanks, but I’d prefer we stick with the concept of VOTING for who serves us, and not relying on the “appointment” BS, which can tend to stack the deck too much.

  3. RuralDem says:

    Another piece of legislation full of nothing but partisanship. Great job. Now, can we focus on important issues instead of playing political games?

  4. atlantaman says:

    The GOP has been frustrated they can’t beat any of the Supreme Court Justices statewide- it’s been a real ass whuppin everytime. If you elect judges by Congressional district then there will be a better chance of knocking off some of the Judges like Hunstein or Sears. $3,000,000 spent in a Tom Price district to paint Hunstein or Sears as an ACLU Communist would have gone a long way.

    Strictly speaking from a Republican, Macheavellian point-of-view I think it’s short-sighted. The state is trending Republican and as some of the Supreme Court Justices step down, and are replaced with more “Chamber of Commerce friendly” Judges, they will be just as difficult for the trial lawyers and Democrats to beat.

    I suppose when that happens there will be a movement afoot to switch the elections back to statewide.

  5. I think the state is probably about as Republican as it will get, if anything it eventually will trend back the Democrats way, but that’s a different story.

    What happens when the lines get redrawn — or when Georgia has 20 Congressional districts (or 12), do we adjust the size? And what if an African American justice gets put in the same district as a white justice — or another African American…then wouldn’t the VRA apply?

    Additionally, the existing Supreme Court would have extra reason to mess with the legislature (or whatever) drawing lines. Don’t like how your district was drawn? Say it’s unconstitutional.

    God, Republicans, if you are so convinced the state is trending, just follow Atlantaman’s advice and wait your turn. Something tells me they aren’t as convinced as they come across, hence the need for this type of stuff.

  6. Bull Moose says:

    I like the idea of the Governor making the appointment and then the Senate confirming them.

    The idea of having them run by district is just a ploy to reshape the courts.

  7. Josh D Ondich says:

    Bull Moose,
    I disagree with you on that. I prefer voters in their respective districts get to know their justice. it is not a ploy. If S.R 370 is passed. You would see the majority of Republicans on the State Supreme Court if it is a partisan election. It is the voters in the district that determine who gets in. If it remains non-partisan elections. it won’t really matter. I like the idea of keeping it non-partisan elections.

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