Proposed Positions for Adoption through Concurrence
SEPARATION OF POWERS
Position in Brief
The League of Women Voters supports Constitutional separation of powers between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government, including appropriate checks and balances.
The Framers of the United States Constitution provided for three branches of government: Executive (President), legislative (Congress), and judicial (U.S. Supreme Court). Each branch has unique powers that cannot be exercised by either of the other two branches. However, each branch through its powers provides checks and balances on the other two branches. For example, the U.S. Supreme Court can rule on the constitutionality of Congressional legislation, the President can veto Congressional legislation, Congress can override a Presidential veto, and so on. It is through the separation of powers with concomitant checks and balances that the United States is able to maintain its stable form of democracy.
States, such as Hawaii, have adopted this tripartite, Constitutional form of government, but vigilance is required of an educated public to ensure its viability.
MERIT SELECTION OF JUDGES AND JUSTICES
Position in Brief
The League of Women Voters supports the merit selection of judges through a process which is as free of political influence as possible, encourages a fair representation of gender and Hawaii's diversity of ethnic cultures, and discourages the domination of judges of one extreme ideology or another.
While our federal and state constitutions guarantee certain rights to, all those accused of criminal wrongdoing, or who appear before civil courts to settle some dispute, these rights can only be recognized and preserved by a justice system which is impartial and fair, free of political influence or pressure and intimidation by outside groups.
The League believes that the merit selection of judges is the best system to achieve that end. Such a system should:
- Include an independent, nonpartisan commission which does the initial screening of applicants for a judgeship with:
- commissioners appointed by more than one or two appointing authorities to ensure diversity of experiences and viewpoints,
- terms long enough for commissioners to acquire the knowledge and develop those skills necessary to meet their responsibilities, yet not too long for cronyism to set in,
- staggered terms to preserve the institutional memory necessary for the application of lessons learned and for the experienced members to help in the orientation of the newer commissioners, d. the release of names of nominees for appointment by the appointing authority at the same time that the names are sent to the appointing authority, in order to incorporate transparency into the system,
- Provide clear criteria for the evaluation of candidates, and
- Include accountability built into the system through:
a. access to appellate review of judgments on cases by plaintiffs and defendants, b. periodic performance reviews of judges and justices by an independent body, c. careful reviews of performance records and solicitations of public comments, prior to decisions on retention for additional terms by the body charged with the responsibility, and d. the establishment of a judicial conduct committee or commission to investigate charges of misconduct in office, unethical behavior, and willful neglect of the responsibilities of office.