How do I research Justices up for re-election?

Really just that simple. I have my sample ballot in front of me, and there are two choices:


Shall Justice Charles T. Wells of the Supreme Court be retained in office?



Shall Judge Chris W. Altenbernd of the Second District Court of Appeals be retained in office?


I’m sure that unless either of these guys gets caught molesting puppies or kittens in the next few weeks then they’re back in. Because you just never hear of them and they don’t have an opponent. Still, I’d prefer to make an informed decision. Google offers up tons of government sites with their names, but where can I easily find a voting record, controversial decisions, etc?

FWIW I’m in Florida, sadly in District 9.

Edit: I guess the title should say up for retention versus up for re-election. Not certain if they were ever elected, or just appointed then the People get to decide if they are retained.

The League of Women Voters has a website with non-partisan information on various candidates. I looked and it doesn’t have a lot of information on these two judges. You might also look at the local newspapers.

Florida newspapers do a pretty good job of this, although they’re all “in the tank” for Democrats this year.

I’ve found that the St Pete Times sort of endorses them, but they really just say that they have a high endorsement level from Florida Lawyers. I found that Wells presided over the whole Election 2000 fiasco, but it wasn’t clear from the bits I’ve found so far to what extent his influence was. Also not sure I agree with your characterization of the papers being in the tank for the Democrats, unless you were being facetious.

I’m in the tank for the Democrats too, and I wasn’t being facetious. I think all the local dailies have endorsed Obama except the Tampa Tribune and Bradenton Herald.

The Bar survey basically just tells you whether or not the judges are crazy and/or incompetent. Both have over a 90% approval rating, so they probably aren’t.

If you want to know if they’re “on your side”, Wells is a liberal-to-moderate Democrat, appointed by Lawton Chiles, while Alternbernd is a conservative Democrat-turned-Republican, appointed by Bob Martinez.

I don’t care too much whether judges are on my “side”; I don’t feel that judges should be political, although I understand that expecting them to be apolitical is a pipe dream. More whether they’re fair and don’t get too political in their application of the law, in either direction.

Can’t help you much there, although Wells wrote the SCOF opinion directing a recount in the 2000 election kerfuffle, and Alterbernd affirmed the district court ruling in the Schiavo case (ie., affirming the life support cutoff order).

Many weeklies and a few dailies will produce an “Election 2008” supplement, insert, or simple page o’ listings where short statements by the candidates characterizing themselves and/or non-partisan comparisons are presented for voter information.

Appellate judges, such as those on state high courts, usually have written opinions which can be reviewed. Oftentimes one needs to be a lawyer or have law-profession-related credentials to access these online, though.

Perhaps Brain Glutton or another Florida lawyer or a lawyer with access to the Florida decisions opinions database might give you some links?

Actutally, in the final FL Supreme Court ruling that was a 4-3 win for Gore directing further recounts (the one was was overturned 5-4 in Bush v. Gore by SCOTUS), Wells was in the dissent and his dissenting opinion was quoted extensively by SCOTUS…

Nah. Anyone can get a WestLaw or LexisNexis account; you just have to pay for them (or have a library card). Findlaw is free, though. Here’s one of Alternbernd’s opinions:,%202007/2D07-260.pdf

You can look at all the opinions he’s authored here, although you’ll have to trawl through them one by one since you can’t search by judge.

The problem is that you could read 50 of them and still not have any idea if he’s a good judge or not without having someone with experience in that field to interpret them for you.

You’re quite right. My mistake.

You are correct in that Wells voted with the unanimous FL Supremes against Katherine Harris in ordering the initial recounts. But, he declined to go further with the statewide hand recount…

ETA: I think that he was a Gore supporter and the fact that he put personal preferences aside to try to settle the matter according to law means he will get my vote; or a yes vote for him.

Two liberal Dems in one election I am voting for…the world is coming to an end…