October 22, 2009

SIUC to host expert on judicial selection methods

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Stephen L. Wasby, a nationally recognized expert on judicial processes and court studies, will discuss the various judicial selection methods throughout the country next week at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Wasby will present, “Selecting Judges: Merit Selection and Other Matters,” at 4 p.m., Monday, Oct. 26, in the courtroom at the SIU School of Law’s Hiram H. Lesar Law Building. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Wasby is a professor emeritus of political science at University at Albany-SUNY. He taught political science at SIUC from 1966 to 1978, becoming a professor in 1974.

The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, the Department of Political Science and the law school sponsor the lecture.

The presentation will look at the range of options states now use in judicial selections, with a focus on the judicial merit system in use in several states, Wasby said.

“I am particularly honored to be able to talk under the auspices of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute,” Wasby said.

Political scientist John S. Jackson, a visiting professor at the institute, said Illinois “has a fairly unusual package” where judges initially run in a contested partisan election. Judges then run for retention in uncontested, non-partisan elections through voter approval, an aspect of merit selection. In Illinois, all but associate circuit judges must receive a minimum 60 percent voter approval rating to receive retention. Circuit judges consider retention for associate judges every four years.

A backdrop to the discussion is the 2004 Illinois Fifth District Supreme Court race between Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd A. Karmeier, Republican, and former Illinois Appellate Court Gordon Maag, a Democrat, which cost nearly $10 million -- a national record according to the National Review.

While at SIUC, Wasby focused on constitutional law and judicial processes, Jackson said.

Wasby “is a long-time friend and has stayed in touch with senior members of the department over the years,” Jackson said. Wasby said he has returned to the region several times. He returned to deliver a speech at the law school for Constitution Day in 2006.

Wasby joined the University at Albany-SUNY faculty in 1978 and retired in 1999, although he remains professionally active. His principal research interests focus on the federal appellate courts and interest group-based civil rights litigation.

Wasby will also speak earlier in the day at the law school. He will present a faculty workshop as part of the Law School’s Dean’s Colloquium Series, “After Sotomayer, what’s next?” at 12:30 p.m.