Where Do Judges Come From?

Chief Justice John Roberts complained in a recent state of the judiciary statement that only 40% of new federal judges come from private practice, and the balance from various government positions. There is nothing wrong with judges having a government background. But there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

A similar situation obtains on the state side. We have noted before that in California new judges tend to come overwhelmingly from the ranks of government lawyers, although to be fair, we also note that the proportion of private practitioners has been rising in recent batches of judicial appointments by our Governator.

But over at the Los Angeles Times, the editorial board can’t get enough government lawyers on the bench. Case in point: the coming election. The Times has endorsed six candidates for contested judicial seats. They consist of two sitting judges (who are being challenged), one Referee (a sort of a judge pro tem), one hearing officer for the Los Angeles Police Department, one Deputy Attorney General, and one Deputy District Attorney. Not a single individual currently in private prtactice.

This isn’t good, folks. A bench composed largely of former lawyer-bureaucrats gives rise to obvious problems, not the least of which is the fact that judges with no significant private sector experience may be something less than stellar performers when it comes to subtleties of insurace coverage.

No wonder the most sophisticated litigants, represented by the best lawyers are abandoning the public court system in large numbers, and are hiring rent-a-judges instead.

For the full text of the L.A. Times editorial, go to http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-ed-court-20100424-19,0,6062471.story