Appointed or Elected?

Benefits and Drawbacks of Appointing or Electing Public Servant

Sheriffs and District Attorneys hold a significant amount of power in the criminal justice system. The main job of a sheriff is to enforce the law by apprehending individuals suspected of committing crimes. They also work to expand public safety by preventing crimes. A district attorney’s primary obligation is to uphold the safety of the community by prosecuting those who have been suspected of not following the law. Both Sheriffs and District Attorneys are responsible for serving their communities and enforcing the laws without prejudice, bias, or a political agenda. If they do not follow their job titles, then that is another problem and a solution that must be solved by voters.

Produced by Rodrigo Campos-Sánchez  

The people who carry our views

By Rodrigo Campos-Sánchez

Sheriffs, district attorneys and judges hold a significant amount of power in the criminal justice system. The main job of a sheriff is to enforce the law by apprehending individuals suspected of committing crimes. They also work to expand public safety by preventing crimes. A district attorney’s primary obligation is to uphold the safety of the community by prosecuting those who have been suspected of not following the law. The roles of judges are to keep order, be unbiased and to follow the laws of the state.

Sheriffs, district attorneys and judges are responsible for serving their communities and enforcing the laws without prejudice, bias or a political agenda.

At times, the people in these roles are elected into office. Other times they are appointed to their roles. 

Running for elected office takes money and time. Someone needs to fund the campaigns for people seeking to become a Sheriff, District Attorney or Judge. Typically, campaign money comes from public funding programs or from private donors who can remain anonymous. Campaigns also look for endorsements from union groups as a vote of confidence. 

While individuals in these roles are expected to remain apolitical if elected, their need to finance their campaigns and get endorsements open them up to influence by special interests, which can complicate their ability to remain free from influence.

According to Yoel Haile from the ACLU of Northern California, “One thing that could be done to keep district attorneys, sheriffs and judges serving the public’s best interest would be to defund their offices. All the money that is being wasted on them and that they are wasting could be used to create universal healthcare, quality education, mental health care in communities, social services, unemployment benefits, and possibly also lift the minimum wage.”

Jesse Ruhl is an immigration attorney of Philadelphia. He believes it is difficult for candidates who run for office to be apolitical if elected.

“It’s very difficult for me to imagine a situation where an elected official would not feel beholden in some way to an organization or individual who has contributed money to one’s campaign," Ruhl said. "There is a very strong possibility that an official might show favoritism to a contributor, and it’s been done before.”

Mindy Barry is an attorney at Keller Thoma in Michigan, and a former candidate for an elected judgeship there. Barry has thoughts about undue influence as well.

“I think that people who are in office are influenced," She said. "They’re influenced by the intoxication of power, not money. There are politicians who are in jail, but I think corruption is in the concept of power.”

Sunshine laws were created to hold people of high political power accountable and deter them from taking advantage of their positions.

The more funds that are budgeted to sheriffs, district attorneys and judges by their government municipalities, the more that they have to be disclosed. By being disclosed, the more likely it is that there won’t be an irregular use of funds or temptations to use them irregularly. 

Who holds sheriffs, district attorneys and judges accountable depends on how they got into their positions. If they are elected, it is the voters who hold them accountable because  there is a direct relationship between them and the voters. If they are appointed, the voters have to prove that such a person does not fit the position.

“The power our government officials have is only to the extent of what the voters give them,” Barry said. “Unfortunately, the goal of democracy is not to have the smartest people in charge or who make the wisest decisions that benefit all of us. It’s to have in charge people who carry out the views of the people, and people at times will be misguided.”

The change that is possible and needed

Sheriffs and District Attorneys hold a significant amount of power in the criminal justice system. The main job of a sheriff is to enforce the law by apprehending individuals suspected of committing crimes. They also work to expand public safety by preventing crimes. A district attorney’s primary obligation is to uphold the safety of the community by prosecuting those who have been suspected of not following the law. Both Sheriffs and District Attorneys are responsible for serving their communities and enforcing the laws without prejudice, bias, or a political agenda.

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