Partisan Election of Judges + Death Penalty = Bad Idea

On November 6th, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Sharon Keller was re-elected despite previously facing removal from the bench over a case in which she refused an after-hours appeal by a death row inmate who was executed later that night.

The election of judges based on popular vote is not unique to Texas, though it is one of only 8 states that choose judges for its highest courts with partisan elections.

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Sri Lanka: judicial independence threatened

The Sri Lankan Foreign Minister reportedly told Parliament yesterday that the government would address within the Sri Lankan legal system any alleged violations of international humanitarian and human rights law during the recent fighting between the military and the opposition Tamil Tigers.  Thus, there would be no need for an international investigation.  The Foreign Minister pointed to a long, well-established tradition within Sri Lanka of an independent judiciary.

Before anyone gets too sanguine about the prospects of an effective investigation being carried out by the Sri Lankan government of the human rights abuses and war crimes committed by both sides during the recent fighting, I’d suggest that you first look at the report on Sri Lanka recently issued by the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute.   The report has very disturbing findings about the vulnerability of the Sri Lankan judiciary and legal profession to political interference.  It underlines the need for an international investigation if we’re ever to get the truth about what happened during the last stages of the war in Sri Lanka.