Judges might be “the wearers of America’s only formal muumuus,” but as John Oliver explained during Sunday night’s episode of Last Week Tonight, these officials have much larger problems than questionable fashion sense. In the above clip, Oliver takes aim at the horrifying corruption – and some of the hilarity – that comes from the American system of electing judges.
The host opens his segment by focusing on Alabama’s Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, who recently ordered state judges to ignore the federal court’s lifting of Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban. “Alabama: Boldly refusing to accept diversity and the inevitable since 1819,” Oliver quips. “Like 85% of state judges in America, [Moore] was elected. Thirty-nine states hold elections for judges, and America is virtually alone in doing this.”
Oliver then pokes fun at some ridiculous election campaign ads – which include banjos and awkward, credibility-establishing family greetings. “The problem with an elected judiciary is sometimes the right decision is neither easy nor popular, and yet campaigns force judges to look over their shoulder on every ruling,” he continues, before showing a “downright horrifying” judicial attack ad. The host then takes a closer look at the “inherently compromising” judicial election system, which often leads judges to raise money from businesses, special interest groups and even lawyers.
“Faith in a strong independent judiciary is essential to a civilized society,” Oliver concludes. “Without it, we’re settling disputes either in Thunderdomes or via The Purge. If we’re going to keep electing judges, we may have to alter our idea of what justice is. In fact, at the very least, in order to be more representative, we should tweak the blindfolded lady holding scales to put a tip jar in her hand and give her a fucking winking emoji for a face.”