Voters get to vote on retaining Judges in the State Court of Appeals and the State Supreme Court. But there is a dearth of information to make an "informed" decision. I can easily ascertain the candidate's nominating Governor or where the candidate went to school. But these facts rarely help me make an "informed" choice.

I dislike academia and an emphasis on degrees. I value civil liberties, separation of church and state, privacy, free speech, private property rights, and third party politics. Should I not waste my time when more information is not readily available? Or can someone give me a suggestion of where to turn for guidance?

  • I think it's a fair question, but I'n not sure if this is narrow enough in scope. So many factors can play a role in making a decision. Perhaps it's better to ask for resources comparing the candidates? For example, the media may have published an article comparing the candidates (like they would have with other elections).
    – JJJ
    Commented Oct 14, 2018 at 15:47
  • Many judicial races are not selected by choosing one among two or more candidates. The ballot tells the voter to vote "yes" or "no" on each judge for retention. This is why a comparison may not be enough or relevant. But I would not mind seeing a comparison. The comparisons I have seen are very light in facts that I would consider meaningful.
    – William
    Commented Oct 14, 2018 at 17:23
  • 1
    This is an excellent question, but unsuited to the SE format. There's no single, objective answer. For example, I tend to use ballotpedia, votersedge, and just Google for these purposes, but there's not really an argument that that's the "right" answer.
    – Publius
    Commented Oct 14, 2018 at 18:12
  • 2
    That's also a fine place to look. But, particularly for lower level judges, they may not have a lot of published opinions, or Phillip may not have the time or resources to look them up. Additionally, some relevant factors may not be apparent from opinions. For example, one southern California judge remarked at argument that women can't actually be forcibly raped; he was officially reprimanded for this remark. Reading the opinions is a great way to go about research, but it's not the singular objectively correct approach.
    – Publius
    Commented Oct 14, 2018 at 18:20
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    A federal judge in California once told me that he always voted to retain judges, regardless of whether he agreed with their views/decisions, because he believed they should have the same freedom from political processes that he did. This was in spite of him being an "activist" judge with very strong opinions on how cases should be decided. I thought it was a principled argument, and have followed it when voting (absent gross professional misconduct on the part of a judge, like taking bribes, which tends to show up in the news).
    – 1006a
    Commented Oct 15, 2018 at 7:26

2 Answers 2


Use Ballotpedia, and type in your address or district. It'll show who's running, and provide some useful background, and even estimations of political leanings. For example, going there and inputting CA for location shows what's on the ballot in California.

Halfway down the resulting list are the judges. Go to the header California Supreme Court elections, 2018 and then click on Carol Corrigan. It returns various background stats, (e.g. Corrigan was appointed by Schwarzenegger), and under Political Ideology offers this estimate:

...Corrigan received a campaign finance score of 0.55, indicating a conservative ideological leaning. This was more conservative than the average score of -0.32 that justices received in California...

There's other data there as well, and often useful links. Repeat as needed per candidate.

  • But this only works if the poster's stances fall nicely along party/ideological lines. In this case, the poster seems to be explicitly suggesting that private property rights (conservative) and civil liberties (usually a liberal term) are both important. But this example shows a judge who is imperfectly conservative. That could mean against private property rights and civil liberties, for both, or some mixture. By squashing everything into one statistic, this source has removed the useful information for anyone with heterodox views not easily categorized as liberal or conservative.
    – Brythan
    Commented Oct 15, 2018 at 1:56
  • @Brythan, You're right, many entries are not as thorough as might be hoped, but on the other hand if a voter has never heard of Judge Corrigan, it tells quite a lot about her, and offers a few leads. For retention elections like CA, a very conservative voter might compare the judges available for retention, and weigh those judges against the sort of judges the current governor would be likely to appoint if an incumbent judge is not retained. Given that it's CA, a conservative might prefer Schwarzenegger appointee Corrigan to virtually any Newsom appointee.
    – agc
    Commented Oct 15, 2018 at 2:15
  • @Brythan My guess is the OP leans towards Classical Liberalism or philosophical Libertarianism (as opposed to the Libertarian Party).
    – holaymolay
    Commented Oct 16, 2018 at 16:56

I value civil liberties, separation of church and state, privacy, free speech, private property rights, and third party politics. Should I not waste my time when more information is not readily available?

The information is readily available, though does require substantial research. You can invest time at the law library at the college or university nearest to you and read the opinions of the specific judges in cases pertaining to the subject matters that you listed. Then make your decision.

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