Benjamin Franklin and the Selection of Judges

There are many methods of selecting judges in the United States.  In federal courts, the President nominates and the Senate gives a thumbs up or thumbs down.  Various states have various methods from election to appointment to some combination of appointment and election.  No state has chosen as a method for selecting judges the method proposed by Benjamin Franklin at the Constitutional Convention.

Franklin was an aged, but revered figure at the convention.  He was due the utmost respect, but his ideas did not always meet with approval.  Such was his idea for selection of judges for the nation’s judiciary.

Franklin termed his plan the “Scotch” plan.  Notes from the Convention leave unclear whether the name of the plan refers to a geographic location or the type of beverage to be consumed while making the selection.  Under this method, all of the lawyers would assemble and select the ablest among themselves to be judge.  The remaining lawyers would then snatch the new judge’s cases.  The lawyers’ self interest would assure that the best person got the job.

Of course, this presupposes that the best lawyer has the best cases.  Even in the 18th Century, this was a doubtful proposition.

Franklin’s proposal was met with respectful silence.

One thought on “Benjamin Franklin and the Selection of Judges

  1. Manuel

    Erroneously attributed to Benjamin Franklin, a common misquote regarding beer being proof that God loves us. For the record, here, in a letter addressed to André Morellet in 1779, is what Benjamin Franklin actually did say:

    Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards,
    there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine, a
    constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.

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