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
of judicl1 elections to nromote jiiac


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
the dataacncessary for this aricle.
of elections fail to   AH, RAhel P u Caktid. Moga
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helpful comments. The dataset con-
he voting booth,       structed for tis article is aailable
online at the Judicial Elctions Data
Initiative (t  i edivnst edu)
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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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