When you see a major "reform" percolating for which there is no significant groundswell among the general population, it is only natural to be a bit suspicious. And in the case of the proposed judicial election reforms currently receiving a political hearing in Raleigh, suspicion is certainly justified.
What is the plan? There are several. But the favored plan involves using commissions when vacancies occur to screen applicants and determine whether they are qualified. The legislature then narrows down to three a list to be sent to the governor. The governor then would choose the judge from among the list of three provided by the General Assembly. That judge would later have to face a retention election.
Republicans apparently feel that they can control who is presented to the governor because they hold both houses of the General Assembly. But they must remember that they will not hold the General Assembly forever.
Moreover, using commissions to vet applicants is bound to be fouled with establishment politics and certain views of the judiciary that are extremely problematic. Recall that the legal community, the nation's law schools and major portions of the political community accept almost without question the practice of judicial activism because it grants them enormous political power.
What motivated these proposals for judicial elections reform? There has been media/establishment discontent with our current practice of electing judges. Our moderate chief justice appointed by Pat McCrory doesn't like the current system. Critics have argued that fundraising for these races has the potential to interfere with the legal process.
But it is good that citizens have the ability to choose among two or more candidates. It gives them a choice, and allows them to have greater input. Yes, it is challenging to know where these candidates stand. But the political/legal class is essentially proposing that we surrender the ability to choose among candidates, and cede that power to them. Instead, we ought to be demanding consistently constitutional judges from both major parties.
The General Assembly would do far better to enact serious judicial reforms to eliminate judicial activism and hold judges accountable, including but not limited to those types of reforms recommended by Daniel Horowitz. The current proposals in Raleigh leave me shaking my head. The mere premise that eliminating true elections in favor of selections made by the political class would be laughable if it were not so dangerous.