Voters invariably have a tough time figuring out how to cast votes in contested races for Superior Court judges.
But the 11 justices who sit on California’s Sacramento-based 3rd District Court of Appeal have made the job much easier for El Dorado County voters by taking the extraordinary step of coming out in unison for the incumbent, Judge Nelson Keith Brooks.
Six of the appellate justices who endorsed Brooks were appointed by Republican governors dating to George Deukmejian, and five are appointees of Democratic governors. Having reviewed Brooks’ cases on appeal, they’ve clearly found him to be competent. El Dorado District Attorney Vern Pierson also has endorsed his re-election.
An appointee of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Brooks has served on the El Dorado Superior Court since 2009 and spent almost three decades before that working as a lawyer in the region.
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Brooks’ opponent, Roland X. Tiemann, is a solo practitioner who has been a lawyer for 10 years, the minimum requirement to become a judge. Tiemann’s endorsements include the El Dorado Republican Party. Although Tiemann has other backing, the GOP’s involvement injects an unfortunate note of partisanship in the race where party affiliation shouldn’t matter.
In an interview, Tiemann said he has not applied to become a judge. He should submit an application and subject himself to the intensive vetting process before the Commission on Judicial Evaluation, as most judges do.
Governors generally appoint judges, and voters get a chance to confirm them in subsequent elections. The system works. So long as judges follow the law, do their jobs, are thoughtful and respectful to people who appear before them, they ought to be retained.
California has a mechanism for disciplining judges who breach ethics. The default should not be that voters oust judges for nebulous reasons, and certainly not for partisan reasons. Judges should not have to fear being ousted because they’ve run afoul of one party or the other.
Brooks clearly has committed no act that would warrant his ouster. To the contrary, he has a reputation for being deliberative and hardworking, and for displaying proper judicial temperament. He has experience presiding over all manner of cases, something El Dorado voters should welcome. We recommend that voters retain Brooks.