Seeking 'first-rate' jurists

Seeking 'first-rate' jurists

June 5th, 2012 in Opinion Free Press

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has hit more or less the right note in his appointments to judicial posts.

Critics say Deal has appointed too many white judges when black judges in areas with high numbers of black residents resign or retire.

"We need fairness," the Rev. Joseph Lowery of the Georgia Coalition for the People's Agenda declared. "Do the right thing. We're not asking them for favors. We're asking them for justice."

With all due respect to Lowery, there is no indication that white judges are incapable of dispensing impartial justice in areas with lots of black residents. True justice and the "people's agenda" call for Deal to select the best-qualified judges available without regard to race.

That is essentially what Deal is doing.

"Governor Deal ... seeks to appoint to the bench the most highly qualified candidates ...," his spokesman said in a statement released to the news media. "He's appointed African-Americans and other minorities to the important positions. Governor Deal takes into consideration the importance of diversity in his appointments, but his first priority is selecting first-rate jurists."

That is basically a good policy, though it would be better if race didn't factor in at all. If the best candidates for, say, the next 10 judicial positions that Deal must fill all are black, then 10 black judges should be appointed. If they are all of Asian descent, so be it. And if they are all white or American Indian or any other race, the same holds true.

Racial diversity per se is neither a positive nor a negative. It is mere genetics. It should neither aid nor hinder a person who is seeking any position -- especially one whose salary is funded by taxpayers.

If Deal's critics have evidence that the governor is appointing less qualified white judges ahead of better qualified black judges, they should present it and make their case. So far that evidence has not been forthcoming.

Accordingly, Deal should not back down from picking those he believes to be the best judges available for positions around the state.