Judgment Day

Knowing Your Judges Is Critical
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When Nov. 8 rolls around, you will be voting for a lot of people running for office at all levels and among the races are positions as judges — a more important elected office than one might imagine.

There are many ways to protect your Second Amendment rights. Participating in judicial elections is one of the most overlooked.
It is imperative to check the backgrounds of people who wish to sit in judgment of all because the courtroom can be a Pandora’s Box of legal activism. Are they supported by activist organizations? Are they rated “qualified,” and who does the rating?

As this month’s column was being prepared, we did a little research due to some startling — nay, shocking — information that surfaced in relation to a couple of police officers murdered in Washington State. Two lawmen, one a sheriff’s deputy and the other a municipal police officer, were murdered and the suspects in both slayings were convicted felons who had firearms.

One of the suspects was killed in the same gun battle in which he fatally wounded the deputy. The other suspect was taken into custody after allegedly shooting the uniformed city officer and then driving over his body before fleeing a few blocks to where he was involved in a horrendous traffic accident and subsequently taken into custody.

Suspect No. 2, as it turned out, had a long criminal history dating back nearly four decades. His troubles included multiple felonies and at the time of the shooting, he was wanted on two misdemeanor warrants.

How do people with multiple felonies manage to be loose in public? Often, it’s because of lenient judges. Ergo, it is incumbent upon voters wishing to keep their neighborhoods and communities safe to pay attention to judges and how they sentence people convicted in their courtrooms.

The Hidden Key

In recent months, frustrated citizens, curious journalists and conservative talk show hosts in various metropolitan regions have been paying more attention to how judges treat certain cases. Down in Atlanta, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution earlier this year reported how local officials started a program in which authorities tracked cases involving 1,000 people who were apparently responsible for a stunning 40% of crimes committed in Atlanta.

How does that happen? These recidivist criminals have evidently learned to game the system. Law enforcement, prosecutors, public defenders and judges know them. Since only the judges hold elective offices, this is where to start. If judges squawk about being held responsible for the crimes of repeat offenders, remind them this is how gun owners feel whenever legislatures start debating new gun control laws.

Questions To Ask

Q. How many times have you heard or read about criminal suspects who were either out on low bail or no bail (personal recognizance), awaiting trial for some other charge?

Q. Who knows a beat cop or a local deputy who has related stories about suspects who are released almost immediately, only to re-offend within days, if not hours? I’ve written about such people. They just cannot stay out of trouble.

Q. Who knows someone victimized by such a miscreant? Have you ever been victimized by a repeat offender?

Q. Have you studied your local state representative/assemblyman and state senator to learn their voting record? Lax judges are only one part of the equation. Lawmakers who push legislation that penalizes law-abiding citizens are another part of this problem.

According to Ballotpedia, 21 states elect judges in nonpartisan elections. Seven states do not have popular elections for judgeships. Several states hold what are called “retention elections,” defined by Ballotpedia as “yes-no elections without opposition to determine whether or not the judge remains on the court.” Still other states hold partisan elections for judges, and a couple of states have two or three of these types of elections, depending upon the type of court.

Citizen Initiative

Three decades ago, activists in Washington State did something remarkable, and they did it twice.

Remember “Three Strikes and You’re Out” and “Hard Time for Armed Crime?” Both measures were the brainchildren of gun-rights advocates, and they caught on fast despite opposition from — you guessed it — many liberals. The laws focused on inconveniencing criminals, not honest gun owners. Maybe the Atlanta program is a modern-day variation, and if it shows promise, gun-rights activists might lobby their local city or county governments to try something similar.

It would be too late this year to put citizen initiatives on the November ballot — not all states have the initiative or referendum process — but think about doing it next year if you live in a state allowing such measures. Off-year elections can accomplish things when left-leaning voters might be less likely to fill out a ballot.

Meanwhile, it is less than three months before the November elections. There is plenty of time to study the records of judges running for re-election and find out about candidates who may be running against them. Of course, judicial elections have all the excitement of watching paint dry but their impact on the community can be overwhelming.

This column has routinely encouraged people to make sure they are registered to vote at their current address. There is no excuse for not getting this done. Voting is a right as important as your right to keep and bear arms, and when you don’t vote, trust me on this, someone else is making a decision on how you will live.

The past couple of years have seen something of a migration of conservatives and gun owners to places such as Texas, Idaho and Montana. You cannot keep running away from an inevitable fight. Draw the line where you live.

This fall could see a conservative wave at the polls, but only if each of you is involved. Want to change things in your region? Find out who is running for office, including judgeships, and cast your vote.

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