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Merit Selection System

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The office of judge is unique in our society. A judge is a public servant holding a high office of public trust and so should answer to the public. However, the obligation of a judge is to resolve disputes impartially and base decisions solely upon the facts of each case and the law. A judge, therefore, should be insulated from public pressure.

The federal government and the states balance the competing interests of judicial accountability and judicial independence in a variety of ways. A federal judge, for example, is almost completely insulated from public pressure by serving a life term. Judges of many states face elections which force them to act as politicians as well as jurists. Other states, including Nebraska, have decided to choose their judges through the merit selection system: using nominating commissions to screen, interview, and solicit judicial applicants. In Nebraska, merit selection was adopted by constitutional amendment in 1962. It originally applied to the selection of judges to the Supreme Court and district courts. Since then it has been extended to include all judges.

This page was last modified on Monday, December 3, 2012