Letter to the Editor: Dealing with elected judges is refreshing

Issue August 2003

After reviewing the "After Lopez" article (Lawyers Journal, July 2003) I wanted to enter some thoughts relative to the process of electing judges or appointing judges. After practicing law for 11 years in Massachusetts and relocating to Florida, where I have now practiced for three years, I have a unique perspective in a state with appointed judges versus elected judges.

I find it refreshing in Florida to deal with judges that are elected versus appointed. I say this in a respectful manner, having reviewed the "After Lopez" article and had the honor to appear in front of the Hon. Robert Barton and knowing Ralph C. Martin, II from my prior dealings in Massachusetts. While I respect their opinions, I have to say that I find that the elected judges in Florida are highly accountable to the population. My experience in Massachusetts is that some judges still are immune from the public and lack accountability in the process.

I am of the belief that judges at all times should have an independent and non-biased approach when sitting on the bench. Unfortunately, there are always going to be judges that have personality clashes with attorneys and/or litigants and allow their personal agenda to interfere in the judicial process.

Although the judges in Florida do not run on a Republican or Democratic ticket, they do have to campaign and they are supported by local attorneys. It is my view, the judges that I have appeared in front of in Florida are able to act independently and also be accountable to the citizens.

Life tenure offers a great deal of immunity from accountability, and I believe electing judges every six years allows a judge to realize that the tenure will be in jeopardy if they don't remain independent and impartial in the proceedings. I suspect the times are "a-changing" in Massachusetts, and in the distant future the election process may become a reality in the commonwealth.

John F. Lakin

Bradenton, Fla.