Color us amused by the feigned tantrums last week thrown by enemies of Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier.
A Republican historically swept into office by a traditionally Democrat Southern Illinois electorate last fall, Karmeier filled his first two lower-court judicial vacancies with—- you guessed it—- Republicans.
His opponents were the only ones who couldn’t believe it.
“It’s partisan,” they screamed. “Karmeier promised to be non-political.”
Right. Was Karmeier supposed to appoint someone unconcerned with public policy issues? Or should he have found a judge whose views fall outside the current debate realm so as to anger and dissatisfy Republicans and Democrats equally? Perhaps a Libertarian or a Socialist?
Voters spoke resoundingly in choosing Karmeier as an alternative to the status quo. They were rejecting the ‘old way’, where good ol’ boy millionaire trial lawyers worked in tandem with judges to game the court system, bringing to it—- and to all of us-- a horrid ‘hellhole’ reputation.
Karmeier’s judicial appointments are positive steps towards salving all of this, which is exactly what he promised.
It’s important, however, amidst this predictable hysteria to distinguish between partisanship and fairness on the bench.
Doctors, employers and their jobs have been leaving (or not choosing) Southern Illinois because they believe our courts have consistently been unable to dispense justice.
That is—- the talented people and institutions we need most feel Southern Illinois judges are unfair.
Their flight has nothing to do with partisanship.
All judges, in every court in the U.S., are partisan. They’re keenly aware of the issues at hand in our public policy debates and they have personal positions on each. Judges vote, and in places like Illinois, they campaign under the banner of a prevailing political party if they want to reach the bench.
When a judge pulls on their robe and enters the courtroom, they don’t check their political views at the door. Who could?
Judges aren't supposed to lobotomize themselves before they take the bench. But are charged to be fair to all parties before them. That was the rub here, in Madison County particularly.
Many of our judges had plainly forgotten how to be fair. So voters elected Lloyd Karmeier to teach them. For all of our sake, let's hope he is successful.