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Event Governance Civil Justice

Judicial Elections: Past, Present, Future

Sunday April 2001

MR. JIM WOOTTON: We have before us today two very distinguished sets of panelists, but no one is more distinguished than Judy Pendell, who is known to many of you as one of the most informed advocates for the reform of our civil justice system. Judy was at Aetna for years, both as the head of a unit and then as the chief of staff to Zoe Baird, who was then general counsel at Aetna. She has been involved in some capacity in the formative stages of almost every civil justice reform group I'm aware of, and she has served on most of their boards as well.

Judy is a graduate of Vassar College and earned her MBA from Yale. She's brought all her perspective and expertise as a non-lawyer to an area that's often dominated by lawyers. She will open our session by giving us a history of the election of judges and then she will introduce the rest of the panel.

MS. JUDYTH PENDELL: Thank you, Jim. And welcome to all of our attendees.

Prior to the 19th century most state judges were appointed. Judicial elections came into vogue in the Jacksonian era as part of a wave of democratic populism. Dissatisfaction with the political "untidiness" of elections spawned a reform movement consisting of a mix of nomination and election. In 1940, Missouri implemented the merit selection system, a system whereby judges are appointed through a commission and are then later reinstated through a retention election.