Convention Edition 2003 Home   Newsletters

Fall 2003

Winter 2003

President's Message (Maile Bay)
To All Leaguers
Proposed Positions for Adoption through Concurrence
On Election of Judges
Elections Office: The Newest & Final (Jean Aoki)
LWV-US Files Amicus Brief
Judicial Independence: Educating Citizens to Protect Equal Justice... (Nancy Connors)
LWV-US Ed Fund Grant
Ugly Side of Redistricting (Jean Aoki)
Practicum on the Hawaii Legislative Process (Grace Furukawa)

President's Message

Do we remember the term "balance of power" from our civics classes? With the U.S. Constitution, the founders of this nation created a balanced government with three co-equal branches: the legislative to make the laws, the executive to administer the laws, and the judiciary to interpret the laws. These three branches are to provide checks on each other to maintain the balance. Our own state government is modeled after the federal government. While both constitutions provide for the structure and the powers of the three branches, it is the responsibility of all of our citizens, not only the members of the legal community, to see that that balance is maintained.

For the third branch of the government to play its proper role, it must enjoy the independence to make its decisions free from political and popular pressures -- decisions based only on the laws and the facts of the cases before it.

Our democracy has survived many difficult periods of turmoil. We like to think that that is partly because of our respect for the law. No matter how popular or unpopular some of the judicial branch's decisions have been, since the Civil War our hopeful trust in the integrity of our courts has prevented the mass uprisings against authority seen in different parts of the world. We have recourse to the courts to right what wrongs we feel have been perpetrated by the other two branches, and the right to appeal the decisions of the lower courts. Our trust in our system of government would certainly be shaken if we lost all faith in the independence and integrity of our courts.

One of three proposed positions presented for your approval through concurrence has to do with support of the merit system for the selection of judges. In making our decisions, we might consider which system would best uphold the independence and integrity of our courts.

In recent times, we have not seen any concerted attempt to provide for elected judges although during the public debate prior to the 1996 elections on whether we should convene a constitutional convention in 1998, one of the groups actively advocating a con-con did have as part of its platform the election of judges, and periodically we see calls for this change in letters to the editor. Your responses to the concurrence question would determine the action we would take should the issue become a live one.

Writes Sheila Suess Kennedy, a professor at the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs, in an article in the Indianapolis Star (August 17, 2003), "... The Nation's Founders realized that judges wouldn't always be right, but they insisted that they be independent. In the system they created, majority rule stops where the Bill of Rights begins. If judges weren't shielded from the political passions of the day, the Founders knew the Bill of Rights would quickly become the 'Set, of Suggestions.' "

Maile M. Bay

League of Women Voters of Hawaii

President - Maile Bay
Vice President - Sue Irvine
Secretary - JoAnn Maruoka
Treasurer - Beppie Shapiro

Evangeline Funk
Grace Furukawa
Jaurene (Jo) Judy
Jacqueline Parnell

Publication Editors
Mary Anne Raywid
Suzanne Meisenzahl
Production - Jonalynn Sing

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