Howard County Blog

A Blog on what is going on in Howard County

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Tom Perez

Tom Perez has been taken off the ballot in the Attorney Generals race. The MD constitution stipulates that the Attorney General must have practiced law in MD for at least 10 years. Though Tom Perez had practiced law on behave of the federal government effecting every corner of the country as part of the Clinton Justice Department the highest court in MD has said that because he had only been a member of the MD Bar for 5 years he is disqualified from serving. From a constitutional design point of view I think it is stupid to write restrictions on who may serve into constitutions. Let the voters decide. Whether it is professional experience requirements, or residency requirements, or age requirements they undermine voter choice. If the voters don’t think someone is qualified they won’t vote for someone and these issues can be political issues in the campaign, but fundamentally it is the voter who should be left to decide for themselves who they want to have serve them.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

How does your proposal bode for President Arnold Schwarzenegger?

6:27 AM  
Blogger Evan said...

It would let the voters decide.

8:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Evan, I think your proposal would throw intended safeguards out the window.

Should the population as a whole be allowed to make blatantly stupid decisions that would adversely affect everyone, when simply allowing basic standard to be enforced could prevent it?

Taking your suggestion to extremes:
should we skip having guard rails on roads, requiring people practicing medicine to be qualified, having seat belts in cars, non-flammable pajamas for kids, clinical testing of pharmaceuticals, speed limits, sprinkler systems for buildings, etc.? All of these things are safeguards enforced by a paternalistic government to protect us from incompetence, poor choices, and just plain bad luck.

I certainly think having some qualifications in place for certain public service positions is necessary.

Think back a year ago to a good example of a public servant in a position (FEMA director) for which many argued he was not qualified.

Many elections are popularity contests rather than determined consideration of issues, etc., but with eligibility requirements in place it protects us from having President Paris Hilton. That's hot.

1:47 PM  
Blogger Hayduke said...

I believe the truly spelling of "That's Hot" is in fact "That's Hott."

6:25 PM  
Blogger Evan said...

Anonymous #2,

Well then I guess we should just throw out the whole consept of democracy because you clearly do not think the people are qualified to judge for themselves. If not all of the people deciding who is qualified to serve in a job then who determines what the qualifications should be? Some select group? How is this select group determined? It is all very arbitrary. What if I were to write into a constitition that to hold office someone must have shaken hands with 20% of the voters in their district? Yes, it is good for candidates to meet their constituents, but it is up to the voters to decide if the candidates they vote for are willing to meet and listen to their constituents. All these standards are arbitrary creations of humans. My Masters degree was on Comparative Constitutional Design. There are plenty of idiots that have written blatantly stupid things into constitutions all over the world that have adverse effects on people. What democracy does is it agregates the selection and decision making process of a lot of people. Does it always make the right decision? No. But if we didn't use it to allow everyone a say then who are those select special few that should have a say or should determine the requirements. We should give voter the full choice. If a person is unqualified it is for the public in debating the candidates, vetting them as they talk to friends and other communication tools, and to determine who they think is qualified. Should all presidents need a college degree? I think not. My favorite president Harry Truman did not have a college degree. He was self taught and a passionate reader of history. The court said that just because Perez had not been a member of the MD Bar for 10 years he couldn't be a choice of the voters. He clearly had practiced law for a long time including serving in the Justice Department. Shouldn't the voters have been left to determine if he was qualified?

12:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous # 2 - For what it's worth, judges haven't always had to have law degrees to serve on the bench - and in many cases, there still is no requirement for a law degree.

7:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Pure democracy is like pure oxygen on space missions - a good idea, but very volatile and without safeguards the public suffers. Minorities often get the short end of the stick in pure democracies that lack safeguards.

Trying to follow your logic for a moment, does that mean you also find the idea of checks and balances in government too burdensome on allowing those elected to carry out their positions as they see fit?

I'm all in favor of liberal democracy (I do believe the electoral college should go the way of indirect voting for senators, specifically to allow all voters' votes to carry the same weight) and cringe when I hear tales of voter suppression, but I certainly think it's appropriate for there to be minimum qualifications for different elected and appointed public offices.

Who determines what the qualifications should be? - Legislatures with public referendums also able to amend them. I bet if we put it to a democratic vote, the majority would favor maintaining in some form age requirements for public offices. (Unfortunately, in some instances, the age requirement doesn't sufficiently ensure the elected individual does have sufficient wisdom to fulfill their duties.)

The criteria aren't perfect in all cases, but having them is overall a better system than not.


Then maybe the privilege of sitting on the bench should have some minimum qualifications applied as well. After all, lives do depend on judges' decisions from time to time.

Keep in mind my comments on this topic aren't about any specific individuals.

Reiterating my previous opinion, I'm glad we live in a society where we often do prudently apply some safeguards against letting incompetence, ignorance, inexperience, malfeasance, and bad luck run amuck. I consider basic qualifications for certain elected offices to be among those safeguards.


9:33 PM  

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