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Your Turn: Nov. 15

November 15, 2018

Flawed systemYour Sunday editorial deploring attorneys’ political contributions to judges as “tainting the system” ignores the much more important fact that “the system” itself is fundamentally flawed.Electing judges — who are expected to be completely nonpartisan — on the same enthusiastically partisan basis as legislative and executive branch officials is guaranteed to raise questions about the fairness of the “system” when attorneys contribute to judicial campaigns.Why do attorneys exercise their First Amendment right to contribute to judicial campaigns? Think about it: If NFL referees or major league umpires were elected the same way, who would contribute to their campaigns? Franchise owners and players would be first in line. Why? First of all, because they would be the voters who actually know which ones are the best qualified and the most impartial. Would some also hope to cultivate favor, or at least avoid comparative disfavor, by contributing? Perhaps. And would that hope be justified? Perhaps, unfortunately, in some instances.In every general election cycle, attorneys talk to other attorneys to compare notes and seek informed opinions about which judicial candidates to vote for, and why. Attorneys whose practices seldom involve trying cases seek informed opinions from attorneys who do; and attorneys who don’t do appellate work inquire of others who do. And all attorneys, regardless of political party affiliation, fear “wave” elections in which top-of-the-ticket races for legislative and executive offices result in heavy, highly partisan voting that mindlessly sweeps out incumbent judges and sweeps in their replacements — regardless of qualifications in either case.In short, judicial qualifications and judicial impartiality are not best evaluated through the same spend-and-elect, free-for-all, partisan-ballot system by which we choose legislators, governors and presidents.Your editorial premise that “the system” of electing judges is tainted because attorneys contribute to judicial campaigns suggests that they should be barred from exercising that constitutional right and, more importantly, overlooks the fundamental inconsistency of choosing nonpartisan judges through a highly partisan process. That’s the real problem.John E. ClarkSaved his lifeI would like to express my thanks to the numerous individuals responsible for my survival when my vehicle caught fire and burned on I-35 near the downtown campus of UTSA on Nov. 9.This includes the many passing drivers who gave me warning and granted me right of-way as I lost power and worked to steer my vehicle out of traffic.Special thanks go to Marine Sgt. Don Crain, his wife, Catherine, and Don’s father, who were visiting San Antonio. Assisted by an African-American gentleman whose name I do not know, they cut my seat belt and pulled me through the driver-side window seconds before flames engulfed the car. Because Catherine contacted my wife, I was able to thank her family personally.I hope someone who reads this will convey my gratitude to the other gentleman. Fire and EMT personnel and police officers, including Officer Finley, who also called my wife, were quick to respond. Because of all these people, I returned home with only bruises.My thanks go to these unselfish individuals and the professional public servants who protect our residents every day.Fred N. PfeifferJust one more?Re: “California guman goes on rampage,” front page, Friday:Mass shootings have become so common that they have been replaced to the second story under sex abuse at schools.Ellen ONeal, HelotesXenophobiaIt is unfortunate that some of your readers, some Americans, and even our president, seem unable to understand the most basic principles of our Constitution and the most fundamental values upon which America was built.The United States was built by foreigners as everyone of the founders came from a foreign country themselves or their ancestors a few generations previous. And today foreigners still contribute significantly to America’s development. And the United States has offered sanctuary to those fleeing persecution in other countries.Xenophobic policies, practices and statements, by our president or our neighbors, hurt America. They show that we are unable to stand by our Constitution in a contemporary world. They show that we are unwilling or unable to uphold the values upon which the United States of America was founded.A strong America must be built on fair cooperation with others to make the world a more equitable and fair place to live. It must be based on protecting those fleeing from persecution and welcoming those who want to contribute to America.Let’s hope Americans will reflect upon, speak about and act on these sentiments that underlie our Constitution and reflect the values upon which America is founded.Curtis Doebbler, professor of law, Sierra Leone, on partial leave at RAICESGood adviceRe: “Whitaker said judges should heed the Bible,” front page, Saturday:I read this article with interest. Heed the Bible? This is excellent advice for acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker to give to his boss, our president.G.L. LambornGood readingWhether or not you enjoy reading history, Tim Gautreaux’s novel, “The Missing,” will tell you more about the Great War than you ever expected to learn.The main character arrives in France on Nov. 11, 1918, to be assigned the job of ordnance disposal in war-torn France. Monsieur Gautreaux shows his protagonist facing terrible situations after the war and doing his best to behave as a Christian.One can learn a great deal about excellent writing — and about life — while reading the author’s three novels and three short-story collections.Bill Gisler, professor of English

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