Next week, voters across Michigan, including here in Washtenaw County, will cast votes to decide a wide variety of judicial positions. A legal expert says they may be some of the most difficult candidates to evaluate, but also are some of the most important votes.
That's because elected judges make decisions that shape major policies in addition to cases directly impacting individuals. Jocelyn Benson is Wayne State University's Law School Dean and a former Democratic Nominee for Secretary of State. She says eventually every law comes before a judge.
Since the position is so important, Benson hopes voters don't just automatically pick the incumbent. "Look beyond a name they may recognize to see what they can find out about that individual's background, decisions they've made, whether in the legal field or outside the legal field, and use that information to decide who to support, not just a name they may recognize," Benson says.
But Benson acknowledges it's a real challenge for non-attorney's to get as much background information on judicial candidates as those running for other offices. She says the League of Women Voters does a good job of sharing information but it really takes a nuanced look at a judicial candidate's past to determine how they may rule on future cases.