94 Judicature 208 (2010-2011)
Uncontested and Unaccountable - Rates of Contestation in Trial Court Elections

handle is hein.journals/judica94 and id is 206 raw text is: by MICHAEL J. NELSON

Although electoral competition
is an important indicator of the ability
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The author woud like to thank the
udy of trial court      hundreds o tate and coty election
ates found that        th-ougho i r ocessofcolctig
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online at the Judicial Elctions Data
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Judctr So',
4 2008), htip//m

he empirical hterature
ou judicial accountabil-  accountability, a
ity has focused almost      elections in 29
exclusively  on  appellate
courts!' While state appel-  over three-quarter
late courts play a crucial role  rovide voters t
reviewing trial court deci-   prvd      voest
Sions, setting prcccdcnt, and  make a choice inr
interpreting law, their rauks
represent less than 5 percent of the number of autho-
rized judgeships. Though they typically do not make
precedent and are ostensibly bound by the rulings of
higher courts trial court judges exercise immense discre-
tion. Decisions made by appellate judges have important
effects on citizens, but trial courts ar e tsicallb citizens
first, and often ony diiect iteiactior ith the uidicial
br anch Trial court judges determine the amounts of
child or spous1'al csuppotat mus.t be paid ma chiun c
settlement and w ho must pay it set bail XXhen a suispect is
arraigned, and, in mam instanc es, dctermine the length
and ty pe of sentence for a convicted defendant
Mor eovcer judicial selection r eform effor ts in recent
y ears have tar geted trial colurts The November 2008
ballot contained attempt to change methods of judi
cial selection on the genera jurisdiction tri l e ourt
in )ounties in Kansa and 1550un. In 2000 the gox
no  of Incdain  eto c lkcila ion th  o cml haxe
chan cd thc selection mnethod foi thc St. Joseph (o unts

208    UDIC    RE Vo   ne 94, Nuber 5 March Apri 2011

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