The LA Times ran an interesting AP story last week about a plan to pack California’s trial courts with conservative Christians:
Vowing to be God’s ambassadors on the bench, the four San Diego Superior Court candidates are backed by pastors, gun enthusiasts, and opponents of abortion and same-sex marriages.
“We believe our country is under assault and needs Christian values,” said Craig Candelore, a family law attorney who is one of the group’s candidates. “Unfortunately, God has called upon us to do this only with the judiciary.”
The challenge is unheard of in California, one of 33 states to directly elect judges. Critics say the campaign is aimed at packing the courts with judges who adhere to the religious right’s moral agenda and threatens both the impartiality of the court system and the separation of church and state.
Opponents fear the June 8 race is a strategy that could transform courtroom benches just like some school boards, which have seen an increasing number of Christian conservatives win seats in cities across the country and push for such issues as prayer in classrooms.
“Any organization that wants judges to subscribe to a certain political party or certain value system or certain way of ruling to me threatens the independence of the judiciary,” San Diego County’s District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said.
“Judges should be evaluated based on their qualifications and their duty to follow the law.”
As I explained at GetReligion, this story seems implausible for several reasons. To be sure, the effort by the Better Courts Now group is real and focused, but it’s unlikely to be effective. Why?
To start, these candidates, whose qualifications and politics are discussed later in the story, are running for spots on the superior court bench — the bottom of the judicial totem pole.
They rarely would hear gun rights, abortion or same-sex marriage cases. More importantly, their opinions would be bound by higher court rulings (California Court of Appeals and the state Supreme Court for state law; the Ninth Circuit and U.S. Supreme Court for issues of federal law). If they ignored common law, their decisions would be reversed on appeal.
That would be a headache, no doubt, but not a threat to American courts in general.
Read the rest here.