Recognizing the need for reform is one thing. Devising it and implementing it are another. Too often, overzealous reformers succeed only in making matters worse.
We say “succeed” because making matters worse is sometimes their real motivation.
So it was with the French Revolution in 1789, which ushered in the Reign of Terror. Likewise with the Russian Revolution in 1917, which launched the international reign of terror known as communism.
The overthrow of Fulgencio Batista in 1959 and Shah Reza Pahlavi in 1979 subjected the citizens of Cuba and Iran to similar terror.
These extreme examples of reform-run-amok illustrate the wisdom of approaching ameliorative projects with a certain wariness.
Don’t get us wrong. We believe in reform and are strong and persistent advocates of it. We’ve long championed reform in our state judicial system, for instance, such as proposals for a business court and an intermediate court of appeal.
But we’ve also opposed reforms we consider ill-advised, such as the perennial proposals for the appointment of judges or the public financing of their political campaigns.
The latest recipe for rehabilitation, a proposal for reform of our state Supreme Court, comes from a candidate for a seat on that court.
“My initiative proposes two changes to our state’s current recusal rule: the review of recusal motions by impartial judges and publicizing written decisions for recusal motions,” says would-be Supreme Court Justice Tish Chafin.
Currently, challenged justices alone decide whether or not to recuse themselves.
Chief Justice Menis Ketchum, who is already working on a plan to reform the rule, dismisses Chafin’s “Balanced Court Initiative” as “silly.”
In particular, he warns that her proposal would encourage attorneys to “game the system,” using it to remove judges for political reasons rather than personal bias.
We also consider Chafin’s proposal “silly” and consequently question her fitness to serve on our highest court. We recommend, instead, that she recuse herself from the election.