Apr 27 2009
The Allentown Morning Call, analyzing how often local judges end up presiding in cases involving campaign contributors, found that “[o]ut of seven judges examined, only one was found to have no cases involving significant donors.” This review looked at the parties involved in civil cases, but did not include donations from lawyers or law firms. The results compelled the following conclusion:
The instances underscore how judicial rules basically leave it up judges to decide whether they should recuse themselves from a case. They also demonstrate how Pennsylvania‘s system of electing judges leaves the bench vulnerable to claims of one-sidedness or worse, even though the donations are legal.
The article notes that there is growing public concern across the country that campaign contributions may affect a judge’s ability to rule impartially. PMC Executive Director Lynn A. Marks summed up the perception problem: ”Think about yourself being in court and sitting and wondering whether your opponent or your opponent’s attorney made a large contribution to a judge.”
Clearly, this is something no one should ever have to worry about. But an electoral system that requires judges and their campaigns to fundraise promotes such concerns. It’s time to get judges out of the fundraising business.Tags: Allentown Morning Call, fundraising, judicial elections, Lynn A. Marks, PMC