Brow Beat

John Oliver Takes on the Bizarre American Practice of Electing Judges

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore made news this month after he defied a federal order requiring the state to recognize same-sex marriages. Moore has a history of defying federal orders, and many Americans were baffled as to how his lawless grandstanding could only make him more popular in ensuing elections. John Oliver, on the other hand, was puzzled at something else: Why are judges chosen by election at all?

It’s a good question—especially since this system of judicial election often leads judges to solicit money from attorneys and defendants they might see later in court, and all in order to pay for campaign ads that frequently have nothing to do with the judges’ actual qualifications. As a British immigrant, John Oliver has often demonstrated a knack for bringing fresh eyes to America’s absurdities (as he notes, the “only other country on Earth that does it on this scale” is Bolivia), and perhaps this is one place where it makes sense for Americans to consider an outsider’s perspective.