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Don't fix it

Editorials

The judicial selection process isn't broken, and HJR 42 isn't needed

The wisdom of electing judges has been debated for years. Some states elect judges, other states ' and the federal government ' appoint them, requiring confirmation by a legislative body such as the U.S. Senate.

So far, no state requires both election and confirmation. Oregon should not become the first to do so.

In Oregon, when a vacancy occurs on the bench, the governor appoints a replacement, who must then run for the seat in the next election.

Comes Rep. Rob Patridge, R-Medford, with HJR 42, an amendment to the state Constitution that would require Senate confirmation of such judicial appointments. The bill narrowly passed the House on a mostly party-line vote, 31-27. It is now in the Senate Rules Committee, which held a hearing on the bill Tuesday.

Absent some groundswell of support, the measure appears likely to languish in committee. That's where it should stay.

— Critics of electing judges say that vacancies almost always occur when a judge retires or leaves office between elections. The governor fills the vacancy, and the apoointed judge then runs for election as the incumbent, often without opposition.

This, they say, is tantamount to appointment for life, as is the case with federal judges.

It's true that judges often remain in office for many years. But it's also true that the voters must agree to keep them there. The voters do have a direct say in electing and retaining judges, and judicial races, especially at the CirCircuit Court level, often are contested.

State and local bar associations, at least one Supreme Court justice and the League of Women Voters oppose the measure, saying the present system isn't broken.

We agree. New laws ' especially constitutional amendments ' should be enacted when there is a compelling reason to do so. We see no compelling reason here.

We also suspect the real objection Patridge and other Republicans have to the present system is that a Democrat has occupied the governor's mansion continuously since 1986. For much of that time, Republicans have controlled the Senate.

Supporters of this bill should remember that a double-edged sword cuts both ways. The governor will not always be a Democrat, and the Senate could well be in Democratic hands at some point.

Constitutional amendments are difficult to undo. Supporters of this bill could find themselves wishing they could take it back.

Lending a hand

It's a fantastic example of people in our community pulling together.

Russ Koehler, resource development manager for ACCESS Inc., a Medford-based food rescue operation, had that to say about another, smaller food rescue group, Food for People of Ashland, which now serves some 1,000 people a week.

Food for People is the brain-child of Pamela Joy, who started the organization seven years ago after volunteering to pick up some food from an Ashland restaurant and two bakeries.

The chore brought home to Joy the fact that many people in the world are starving. She organized local efforts to match leftover food with people who need it.

Joy's effort is not supported by any agency. The work is done by a group of volunteers ' many of whom have benefited from the program themselves.

I'm not super-smart and I'm definitely not rich, Joy says. If I can do this, anybody can do this. There are countless ways to volunteer.

She's right. If you have some free time and wish to volunteer, call Joy at 482-5330.