“NO FURLOUGHS—NO REAPPOINTMENT” FOR JUDGES IS A VERY BAD IDEA

Give state Rep. Zeke Zalaski (D-Southington) credit for trying to find some leverage to get state judges to take furlough days to ease the state’s budget deficit just like other state employees. Unfortunately, threatening their reappointment over the matter is a very bad, even dangerous, idea.

A Hartford Courant report by Jon Lender showed that 26 judges on the Superior, Appellate, and Supreme courts didn’t take even a single furlough day while nearly all of the nearly 55,000 other state employees are well on their way to taking seven of the unpaid days before the middle of 2011. For the most part, it shows the judicial branch to be elitist and disconnected from the rest of us. So what else is new? Threatening their reappointment is not the answer.

In addition to obvious separation of powers issues, holding up judicial reappointment over furloughs days is dangerous. Reappointment is supposed to be based on whether a judge’s performance on the bench and in the courtroom is satisfactory and hopefully, exemplary. A judge must fail severely as a jurist to not be reappointed. Failure to take furlough days doesn’t qualify. If it does, it opens a whole new door as to what qualifies as grounds for withholding reappointment.

In years working for the state legislature, The Shad has seen some judges face severe questioning about his or her actions on the bench, mostly about temperament. The accusations were jaw-dropping. They were all reappointed.

We should also be careful not to paint all judges with the same broad brush. Most, including one The Shad knows personally, don’t act like they are untouchable, have taken furlough days, and are doing a fair and impartial job.