Do you have any recommendations on where to look for information on how particular judges have conducted themselves? Especially for judges in the lower courts, there doesn't seem to be a lot of news about their activities. When it's a competitive race, I can follow the heuristic of voting against the candidate who used to be a prosecuting attorney, but it would be good to have more information.
I tend to kind of cheat-- I have a friend who's an attorney who works for the county doing family law/friend of the court/probate stuff. I ask her to tell me about the candidates. I don't ask her to tell me who to vote for, but, if she endorses someone, I consider that heavily. And the one time she said, "Vote for absolutely anyone except the incumbent," I took her very seriously indeed.
I find, though, that a lawyer has to be a pretty good friend to give this sort of information because they still have to work with whoever gets elected. That leads to a fair number of missed stairs.
Another good alternative (for judges and other offices) is to take a reporter from your local paper, or a reporter who used to work for your local paper when you had one, out to lunch. Local reporters always need lunch, and always know which candidates are vicious or corrupt and which can empathize their way out of a paper bag.
(We live with ours. He is useful, and we do our best to consistently provide him with lunch. But the principle holds, and honestly my experience is that local reporters are always happy to gossip, free food or no free food.)
Neighborhood listservs, where they exist, are also helpful. Like many other people, much can be discerned of a candidate's character from how they behave online.
I think you guys are assuming both that I have a much different social circle than I have, and that I have a much higher budget than I have. Spending money to buy a stranger lunch in the hope of getting information on how to vote is not an expense I can justify. Nor can I imagine being able to steer the conversation to that particular topic—I can't even imagine how to present such an invitation without coming across as presumptuous and offensive.
As for the other option, what's a listserv?
A listserv is an electronic mailing list, usually on a particular topic of interest. Some of them allow you to choose whether to receive posts one at a time or in digest form. They have been around the internet since--um, the expression I would usually use for "forever" here is "since Fido was a pup," but I have no idea how they compare to Fidonet.
I'm sorry--I didn't intend to assume privilege, and I clearly did. Sleep deprivation apparently does my social simulation skills no favors. It was mostly privileged information, I think, rather than privilege of resources, so let me try to unpack a little:
- Local reporters are the only reporters left who consistently care about reporting news that affects people rather than fearmongering and entertainment, or at least who are consistently permitted to write about the "boring stuff."
- Local reporters make poverty-level wages, because their papers have generally been bought out by big media corporations who don't value what they do.
- In the DC area, where I live, "buy someone lunch" is shorthand for having an informal conversation with them; it doesn't necessarily involve paying for anything. "Buy someone a drink" means the same thing.
Also DC privilege--learning how to talk to strangers about their jobs, even when everyone involved is an introvert. It turns out not to be a difficult thing to learn--and I say that as an introvert with at least mild social anxiety.
For local reporters, I would look in the local paper (assuming it exists, for all this stuff) for what boring meetings get covered--school board, friends of the library, mayoral press conference, whatever--and go to the next one. (I would also check out the byline and read a couple of their longer articles, which will exist because they're writing somewhere between a third of the paper and the whole thing.) The reporter will be there; they will be identifiable because they ask reporterish questions and probably still carry one of those little notepads.
If you wait around until the end (and until they're done asking the questions that they didn't want to interrupt the meeting with), you can say something along the lines of "Thanks for all your great coverage. Are you guys planning to do a run-down of the local candidates for the upcoming election?"
This will get you 1) information on when they're going to do a run-down of all the candidates, and 2) high likelihood of extra information about said candidates, because most reporters love to gossip.
They will not be offended or upset, because you just expressed appreciation for their work, and because reporters talk to strangers for a living and have a lot of experience with the ones who are *actually* assholes. They *like* talking to the ones who are not assholes, a lot, or they would be writing corporate newsletters by now.
I hope that's helpful? These aren't highfalluting circles, more ones that most people avoid because they look duller than they actually are.
I appreciate the considerable effort you went to, but no, I'm afraid none of that is anything I would be prepared to do. I have the impulse to analyze why in detail, but really it's not your job to solve my problems, and that's the only thing that would justify going on at length.
It depends on the judge re-election. Sometimes they issue statements about themselves/their cases, and you can read them. Other times you can google them. Their cases often are a matter of public record--very few are sealed.
Also, if someone is running against a seated judge, looking at the positions of the person running against them is often very instructive.
You know, I routinely google candidates for the more usual elective offices—Senate, House of Representatives, state senate, state assembly, city council—but for some reason I hadn't thought of doing it with judicial candidates.
Our local chapter of the League of Women Voters tends to do candidate forums (and sometimes issue forums) and to put some candidate provided information online. I don't know that they do so much with judges, but they have done the school board and the city council candidates.
The difficulty, for me, tends to be that most candidates won't state publicly what they believe in. Most of them seem to use code words that are opaque to me. Our local elections are such that the Democratic candidate always wins, so even people who would normally run as Republicans run as Democrats. I haven't completely figured out how to tell the folks I more or less agree with from the folks I don't. (I do tend to vote against the people who keep saying that having parking structures downtown is a waste of valuable real estate that could be commercially developed. Downtown won't do at all well financially if people can't park. Our bus system isn't all that great, and most of these candidates don't want to put money into the buses anyway.)
Our last school board election was very challenging because we had ten to twelve candidates for two open positions. Some of the candidates actively refused to answer questions about their positions, and all of the people asking questions asked general stuff. I couldn't tell, for example, if any of the candidates endorsed intelligent design (I don't) or were climate change deniers or... I did not vote for the candidate who said that he thought the schools had more money than they needed, but most of the candidates were less outspoken.
"Don't vote for the ones that don't answer questions" is an incredibly good rule of thumb.
Local candidates will often answer emails, if you are polite and don't make it clear which answer you prefer. :) The ones who are wingnuts often believe "everybody" is really on their side.
Local candidates may not have a web page, but often they use their Facebook accounts for campaigning, or can be found on LinkedIn.
Bravo! And this is true whether you are in America or elsewhere. Your local elected authority spend your taxes, your money, so try to elect people who will use them wisely.
Yes. Between local government and the Rotary Club (not just them, but shorthand for that class of organizations), in my experience, almost all the decisions that shape what life in a community will really be like get made.