Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Up from the money pit

I supported the concept of appointing Alabama's appellate judges and holding retention elections around this time last year. I still do, for reasons you can read here. The Alabama Bar Association president now predicts a legislator will introduce a bill to enable a constitutional amendment along those lines in March. That means the appointment idea, almost a century old, finally may get a serious hearing on Goat Hill.

Whether the measure can escape the Legislature alive is another matter. Barring a mathematical miracle, Democrats will keep a majority in both houses, but their numerical edge probably will shrink this fall as Republicans pick off a few seats in conservative districts. The GOP's infatuation with judicial elections right now -- the party holds all nine Supreme Court seats and all but one on the intermediate appellate courts -- doubtless will inspire fiery resistance to their elimination, perhaps even the sort that shuts down legislative business for weeks on end. (The partisan greed isn't unilateral, of course. Democrats had the chance to change the system for decades, but they weren't so hot on the appointment idea back when they dominated court elections.)

Alabama's judges' liberation from the money chase is overdue. The ABA plan is a good way to achieve that goal while still giving the public the last word on whether the black robes stay in office.

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