What if we elected judges and police chiefs?

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Frédéric Arnould (access the author's page)

Candidates campaigning to become a judge, a prosecutor or even a police chief, that would be unthinkable in our current system. Yet in the south of our country, it is commonplace in a majority of American states. Indeed, the November 3 election will not elect only one president, senators and representatives.

In the middle of a parade in honor of local country music glory in Wilcox, a small town in southern Arizona, you can find it all: floats, fire trucks, tow truck proudly displaying the banner Tow Lives Matter as well as an all-terrain vehicle bearing the Confederate flag.

Not far from the Republican Party vehicle, shining with its pro-Trump flags, follows a light truck in which a woman wields a large rubber hammer that strangely resembles a judge's hammer. Nothing abnormal, as Sandy Russell, a local lawyer, is running for the post of judge of the Cochise County Superior Court.

Because yes, here as in a majority of American states, voters will be able to choose their magistrate on November 3. At least, says the independent candidate, if you pick a judge whose job you don't like, you can still vote against him in four years.

She believes that her background as a lawyer, where she has argued many different cases, gives her an edge over her competitors. Sandy Russell is even considering creating a rehabilitation program for repeat offenders and mental health support.

Even when compared to a politician who makes election promises, she retorts that a judge can, to a certain extent, achieve things outside of her mandate to decide a case.

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Judges and sheriffs campaigning in the United States

Buy a judge?

Funding an election campaign is expensive and candidates for the post of judge cannot escape fundraising activities. Could we then buy a judge by paying him money during the campaign, hoping that if something goes wrong with justice, we can ask for a favor?

You cannot, says Sandy Russell, to personally accept money, it is done through a treasurer. While the answer seems virtuous, it does not resolve the ethical perception issue.

Not far from the lawyer’s information booth, we meet another candidate for the same post, Jason Lindstrom, who shows him more of his political stripe; he is a republican.

Even if the position is not partisan and the name of the party he represents will not appear on the ballot, he allows himself to add that he is not a politician and that he does not think so. it is a good idea for judges to be politicized. Okay, but then why advertise yourself as such?

Everyone is prejudiced, he says, you have prejudice, your friends are prejudiced. But this should not taint your actions, especially in a position of responsibility in the justice system.

He adds that even if he has conservative values, he will not be called upon to judge cases on questions such as abortion or other polarizing subjects, it is the ultimate responsibility of the Supreme Court whose judges, them , are appointed by the president.

A police chief who is looking for money

In a local cafe in the Phoenix suburbs, to the sound of music from a local rock band playing on a small stage, a few volunteers from Jerry Sheridan's campaign sell sweaters to raise money. Sheridan, a 38-year senior employee in the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, had recently retired.

He came out to hope to win the sheriff's post currently held by a Democrat. A few months ago, he even had to fight in the Republican primaries against former sheriff, Joe Arpaio, who ruled for 24 years the fourth largest county in the United States. Because yes, in addition to judges, voters can also choose their sheriff, the equivalent of a police chief.

A pragmatist and man of action, Jerry Sheridan doesn’t enjoy playing politician and even participating in a fundraising campaign. Citizens have no incentive to donate to a candidate sheriff's campaign because I cannot give them a pass that will get them out of jail.

If elected, he will head an administration of more than 3,000 employees and a budget of nearly half a billion US dollars. In this race, he is also identified with the Republican Party because he has no choice. It’s very difficult to win as a freelance, you have to have political affiliation.

But again, according to him, the law is the law, and there is no need to interpret it according to his political beliefs.

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