I am for responsibilities at short periods, seeing neither reason nor safety in making public functionaries independent of the nation for life, or even for long terms of years.

—Thomas Jefferson. Letter to James Martin, Monticello, September 20, 1813.

A proven method for guaranteeing judges’ fidelity to the law is to require their periodic reconfirmation by the electorate. Experience shows that reconfirmation elections normally leave judges undisturbed, but perform satisfactorily as a check against serious judicial waywardness. In 1986 California Chief Justice Rose Bird was removed from office by an overwhelming popular vote after she had voted against the death penalty in every case that came before her. The judge had clearly substituted her own whim for the law, effectively usurping the people’s right to self-government. The electorate knew she was unfaithful and removed her, showing once again that the people can be trusted to govern themselves.

This article is an extract from the book ‘Principles of Good Government’ by Matthew Bransgrove