Latest Judicial Appointment Raises Question: Should Judges Be Appointed Or Elected?







When the governor named Nina Di Pietro to bench this week, it again ignited the age-old question: Should judges by appointed or elected?

Di Pietro’s claim on the bench was cemented by her marriage. She is the 33-year-old wife of Republican fund raiser and activist David Di Pietro.

She has one big red flag on her résumé. She was fired from the Public Defenders Office after accusations that she was ethically challenged.

The link to an earlier story on this is here. 


dipietro-ninaNina Di Pietro



This is “just the latest example of why Broward is the judicial laughing stock of the state… All that matters is you give big bucks to the Republican Party…The message is clear. Justice is second to Republican politics,” according to a Democratic activist and lawyer upset with the appointment.

Then attacking the Broward Judicial Nominating Commission, the group that recommends who the governor appoints, the lawyer e-mailed:

“Hey Buddy. Do you still think JNC process is better than elections?  …dipietro.  Browards best and brightest.  Not.  While I agree with you elections for judges can be unseemly, our JNC process in Broward is a corrupt hookup.”

Appointed or elected?

Actually Florida has the best of both worlds.

Judges like Di Pietro who are appointed must run for re-election at the next general election. Then they must face voters again every six years.

True, the chances are that Di Pietro won’t have a serious opponent. She is an attractive, well-spoken woman whose husband can raise her campaign boatloads of money.

But the opportunity is there for a lawyer to challenge her.

Me, I trust that Di Pietro isn’t the same woman who was fired from the PDs Office seven years ago. People mature. People learn from their mistakes.

She appears bright. Let’s hope she is fair.

If she isn’t, there is always the Judicial Qualifications Commission looking over her shoulder. The JQC discipline judges who abuse their power.

The key question is whether we would have gotten a better judge through an election?

It is doubtful.

Broward’s courthouse is filled with fine judges who were elected. But the courthouse also have a number of lightweights who are judges only because they ran good campaigns.

The same is true with the appointment process. Governors have made both good and bad appointments.

I’ve been around long enough to remember when the Democrats controlled the JNC nominating process. Democratic governors filled the bench with just as many political hacks as the Republicans.

In a part of this week’s U. S. Supreme Court ruling on judicial funding, Chief Justice John Roberts touched upon appointed versus elected judges, which he called an “enduring debate.” He should have the last word:

The desirability of judicial elections is a question that has sparked disagreement for more than 200 years. Hamilton believed that appointing judges to positions with life tenure constituted “the best expedient which can be devised in any government to secure a steady, upright, and impartial administration of the laws.” The Federalist No. 78, at 465. Jefferson thought that making judges “dependent on none but themselves” ran counter to the principle of “a government founded on the public will.” 12 The Works of Thomas Jefferson 5 (P. Ford ed. 1905). The federal courts reflect the view of Hamilton; most States have sided with Jefferson. Both methods have given our Nation jurists of wisdom and rectitude who have devoted themselves to maintaining “the public’s respect . . . and a reserve of public goodwill, without becoming subservient to public opinion.” Rehnquist, Judicial Independence, 38 U. Rich. L. Rev. 579, 596 (2004).


15 Responses to “Latest Judicial Appointment Raises Question: Should Judges Be Appointed Or Elected?”

  1. All Bark No Bite says:

    Finkelstein is a joke.

    He bitches and moans that Hurley is acting in an unconstitutional manner in regards to homeless cases. His office is considered a law firm, does he file suit, no.

    He bitches and moans about DiPietro and that failed to preclude her from becoming a Judge. Now what? Howard has quietly encouraged people from his office to run for Judge in the past. What will he do now, most likely nothing.

    Howard is a paper tiger who can only get himself elected and knows his support cannot carry anyone else to victory.

    Nina should feel free to make her vacation plans for 2016 now before the prices go up.

  2. count l f chodkiewicz chudzikiewicz says:

    Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?
    If a tree falls in the wilderness and no one hears it including animals does it make a sound?
    How large is the universe or creation?
    Who created the Supreme Being who most of us believe is an old White Guy with a beard and a Lower East Side Jewish accent (or Harvard accent for the Upper West Side Liberal Jews)?
    And which is best, direct elections or selections by elected officials under the influence of “experts”?

  3. Oh Really says:

    Oh shut up Buddy and Howard or not.

    Howard Helped Her
    MAY 1, 2015 AT 10:34 AM
    Dear Howard, I can’t thank you enough for your warm letters to the governor that paved the way for my appointment to the bench. Gov Scott told me during our interview that he’d appoint a mad gerbil to the bench if it meant pissing you off. Thanks so much for understanding the true workings of our Florida political system. See you in court my friend! Judge Di Pietro

  4. Ha Ha Ha says:

    I think the record quite clearly shows that Hamilton was right. Federal judges – all appointed for life – produce very high-quality work for the most part. There are some exceptions to that rule, but it is far beyond reasonable dispute that the average federal judge is at least an order of magnitude more professional than the average state court judge.

    Besides life tenure, another reason for this is the system of Senate confirmation. The Florida Senate does not get an opportunity to confirm or reject the Governor’s nominations, and the now-pathetic JNC system has been weakened and corrupted by recent hostile changes to its structure.

    At present, we have a Governor who really should be in prison for Medicare fraud who is instead in a position to appoint judges without any meaningful checks and balances. It should come as no surprise to anyone that many of the judges he appoints are just as corrupt and unethical as he is.

  5. RINO says:

    Pathetic choice

  6. Sober As a Judge says:

    Judges should be appointed by panels of retired judges assembled at random to review applications for every vacancy.

    Guidelines should be passed by law that include experience, temperament, diversity.

    From there, an appointment panel of 3 retired judges selected by lottery are called into being to interview candidates and recommend three names to the Governor for every vacancy on the bench. Govenor is required to select one of those candidates. From there, they get to serve for a five year term.

    After five years they get to be reviewed for another five year term, this time it’s a panel of 5 retired judges all selected by lottery and they review the work of the judge over the past 5 years. No Governor appointment involved in this, the panel decides if a judge is to be reappointed based on merit.

    After ten years on the bench, judges appear before one last review panel, this time it has 7 retired judges selected at random by lottery. This panel can appoint the judge for a final 15 year term or end that judge’s tenure on the bench. 25 years total on the bench and you’re out. No more than 25 years as a judge.

    This is a much better system than electing judges. There is no perfect system for doing it. This one is better than any other you can think of.


    Would this create a “Society of the Robe” of unelected judges who have too much power? As Justice Anthony Kennedy said this week: “The Court should not now presume citizens are unequipped for that task when it comes to judging for themselves who should judge them.”

  7. Sam The Sham says:

    There goes John Roberts again, trying to have it both ways. Yes, appointed judges are always better. For instance, the (dis)honorable Alcee Hastings, kicked off the bench by a bunch of (Democrat) white guys. Or how about that lunatic racist Ilona Holmes who is lucky she is not pushing up daisies in Deerfield.

    I think we have the system just about right with a mix of appointed and elected judges. There are always retention votes and the JQC to weed out obviously bad judges.


    I reject your smear of Ilona Holmes and Alcee Hastings. I personally believe Ilona Holmes is one of our very good justices. Hastings was found innocent of any charges against him by a jury of his peers, which is the American way.

  8. count l f chidkiewicz chudzikiewicz says:

    Mr. Ha ha ha is correct in my opinion that gov. Scott “got off” from what I assumed would be at least an indictment over his company’s billing practices, however neither the judicial system or the voters if Florida seem to agree with Mr Ha ha ha or me. why? Are we wrong? or is the voting population of my native state uninterested if a man “gets” a fortune unethically and/or illegally? Either Mr Ha ha ha n I are wrong or there is something seriously wrong with a majority of Florida voters.

  9. disgruntled says:

    buddy here we go again, u give only half the story….. yes the jury did find alcee not guilty but even a hack would have to admit the evidence was overwhelming, his great oratorical skills swayed the jury, remember he defended himself. not only is he one of the greatest speakers I have ever heard but he is extremely likeable. this combination was the reason for his verdict. never forget the same evidence was used by the senate to impeach him, only one of a handful of federal judges to be so impeached in the history of our nation. now we have an impeached federal judge as our congressman, I guess broward deserves no better.


    Sorry “disgruntled,” but a jury found him innocent despite of the weight of the federal government, which hardly ever loses a criminal case, and reams of negative publicity. Sorry again, but voters elected him repeatedly and much of his time in Congress he served from a white majority district.

    I guess you would replace our system of justice and the will of the voters with the decision of a handful of members of Congress and your own opinion.

  10. Sober As a Judge says:

    @6 Yes that is precisely what it does and for the very reasons you suggest. The average citizen has no clue what to look for in a judge because they lack the training. The founders believed that also when they entrusted the duty of selecting federal judges to the President with Senate confirmation. Electing them is the most dishonorable and ineffective way of creating judges.


    Yet, almost every state elects judges.

  11. Sober As a Judge says:

    @ 10 Well if you insist on electing judges then at least have them run partisan so we know what philosophy they embrace and do taxpayer financing of campaigns so they stop taking money from the lawyers that practice before them.

  12. Rule of law says:

    @all bark no bite. “A public defender shall not represent any plaintiff in a civil action brought under the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, or the federal statutes, or represent a petitioner in a rule challenge under chapter 120, unless specifically authorized by statute;” 27.51(4)(d), Fla. Stat.

  13. Ha Ha Ha says:

    “I would rank Scott as the least effective, most incompetent governor in modern Florida history,” said Darryl Paulson, professor emeritus of political science at USF St. Petersburg and a registered Republican who has written about Florida politics for 30 years. “Scott was largely absent from the legislative session. He does not understand the process and he is not highly respected even by Republicans in the Legislature.”

  14. Mens Sana says:

    Buddy, you seem to confuse innocent with a jury verdict of not guilty. Because a jury is fooled by a glib talker or his lawyer doesn’t mean we have to be. Or maybe you think OJ didn’t do it?

  15. give me a break says:

    Pathetic choice by a pathetic governor.

    Sends a strong message about the lack of leadership from Slick Rick’s office.

    When he buys his way into the Senate he will still be dangerous but at least it will be diluted some.