American Judges Association


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Published in Court Review: The Journal of the American Judges Association, 43:2. Copyright © 2006 National Center for State Courts. Used by permission. Online at


One of the most frequently quoted comments on judicial reform is the late New Jersey Chief Justice Arthur T. Vanderbilt’s remark, “Judicial reform is not for the short-winded.” Vanderbilt’s remark illustrates a key point about judicial selection reform. Reforms do not occur simply because someone or some group in a state decides that change in the system of selection is desirable; rather, it is necessary for key interest groups in the judicial politics of a state to reach a sufficient political consensus that change can occur. A variety of factors may lead to such a consensus on the need for reform. In Oklahoma, for example, judicial reform came about as a result of a major scandal in the state’s judiciary. But in some states, consensus for change among key stakeholders is difficult. Key interest groups can have competing objectives, making judicial reform impossible. At other times, political conditions— the political environment of a state—lessen the chances of reform.

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