San Diego Judicial Elections: 10 Things To Know

Given the lack of information about San Diego Judicial Elections, here are 10 things (11 actually) to know about judicial elections: (Disclaimer: I am currently running for Judge in San Diego County in the June 3rd Primary election.)

• Superior Court Judges are elected by the People. The Governor of California is allowed to temporarily appoint judges to vacated seats (i.e. retirement, death, appointment to federal bench, etc.) and then the judges are up for election at the end of the appointed term. (California Constitution, Article 6, Section 15.) Superior Court Judges serve a 6 year term.

• Superior Court Judges are elected county-wide not city-wide. For example, if you are a registered voter in San Diego County (i.e. Oceanside, Ramona, Cardiff), you can vote for Superior Court Judges. It is a non-partisan race so the political affiliation of the judicial candidates will not appear on the ballot.

• There are no contribution limits in judicial races. Individuals, business organizations, PAC’s, etc. can give as much and as often as they choose.

• Judges and judicial candidates are not allowed to publicly endorse or oppose non-judicial candidates (i.e. Senators, Supervisors, Mayors, City Council, etc.) (Code of Judicial Ethics, Canon 5)

• In San Diego County, there are approximately 131 Superior Court Judges. About 45 Superior Court Judges are up for election every 2 years with their name only appearing on the ballot when they are challenged. If they are not challenged, they are automatically elected to a new 6 year term after the November general election. If a Judge decides to withdraw from the election during the nomination period, then the seat becomes open for 5 calendar days to allow candidates to file and run for the open seat. If one candidate receives over 50% of the votes, they are elected in the Primary election. Otherwise, the top two vote getters face a runoff in the November general election and the top vote getter wins.

• To uphold impartiality, judges and judicial candidates are not allowed to make statements on issues, cases or controversies as such matters are likely to come before them while they are on the bench. (Code of Judicial Ethics, Canon 5).

• Superior Court is the trial court. Superior Court Judges generally preside over jury trials, bench (judge) trials, hearings, and motions on civil and criminal matters. Superior Court judgments, convictions and orders may be appealed to the California Court of Appeal, the California Supreme Court and may be heard by the US Supreme Court.

Each judicial race is designated a seat number (i.e. Seat #25). The seat number is just a random numerical designation assigned for ballot purposes. The seat number does not refer to a department, courthouse, or area of the county.

• A Superior Court Judge can be assigned to any division (i.e. civil, criminal, family law, probate, juvenile, etc.) The Presiding Judge determines the assignments and length of the assignment.

• Judicial candidate ratings are a poor tool for predicting judicial performance (no difference whether rated qualified or not), (2) women and minorities are more likely than whites and males to receive lower ratings which is part of the problem why fewer women and minorities are on the bench, (3) and, taken together, the findings of potential bias and questionable usefulness point to a broken rating system. (New York Times May 4, 2014 article, “How Not To Pick Judges” based on a new 2014 study supported by the Harvard Center on American Political Studies and 52 years of judicial ratings data (1960-2012).

• An attorney who is a US citizen, a registered voter and member of the California State Bar for 10 years may run for judicial office.

I think it’s important to provide information to you as judicial elections matter.

Simply my opinion, what say you?

Read post on judicial candidate ratings questioned by new 2014 Harvard study.

(Updated post 5/18/2014)