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Should We Elect the US Supreme Court?

  • Mariah Zeisberg (a1)

Abstract

Extensive political science research reveals that the decisions of the US Supreme Court are deeply political. And both advocates and critics of judicial elections concede that partisan elections are a democratic method of judicial selection. Does the value of democratic representation mean that US Supreme Court Justices should be selected through partisan elections? I argue not. Partisan judicial elections are actually far poorer institutional mechanisms for capturing the judgment of the people on legal matters than has been recognized. The role of parties in structuring a campaign distorts the deliberative environment surrounding judicial elections, creating significant barriers to voters expressing a judgment on matters of legal meaning. The kind of distortion is best understood through reference to a processual criterion of deliberative democracy, which provides a fitting normative template to ground theoretical inquiry into the reason-giving possibilities of existing democratic institutions and practices. Hence, answering why the US Supreme Court should not be elected on democratic grounds also reveals new insights about the role of parties in sustaining (or subverting) deliberative democratic ideals.

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Should We Elect the US Supreme Court?

  • Mariah Zeisberg (a1)

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