Jul 20 2012
Election season brings campaign mishaps, and judicial elections are no exception. Recently, three judges, two from Ohio and one from Texas, have been accused of violating campaign laws.
Ohio Common Pleas Court candidate, Judge Kathryn Michael, was fined for accepting an improper campaign donation from her ex-husband and for improper wording on her campaign material. The Ohio Supreme Court’s Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline conducted a
hearing and concluded “by clear and convincing evidence” that the judge had violated the Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct. Michael had previously repaid the $25,000 contribution from her ex-husband and corrected her misleading campaign materials. As part of the Board’s ruling, she was required to pay $2,500 in attorney fees and court costs associated with the disciplinary complaint.
Also in Ohio, the validity of statements made in state Supreme Court candidate and former judge William M. O’Neill’s campaign materials was called into question. Originally, a five-judge panel determined that Mr. O’Neill misrepresented himself as a current judge in his campaign materials. However, that decision was overturned by a new panel that was created by the Ohio Supreme Court in order to keep itself out of campaign conflicts arising out of races for the Supreme Court bench. The panel determined that, while misleading, the claims in Mr. O’Neill’s campaign materials were not false under the Judicial Code of Conduct.
In Texas, 71st District Judge William Hughey has filed three complaints against his opponent, Brad Morin, alleging ethical violations. Judge Hughey’s first complaint was filed last week, and another two complaints were filed on Tuesday. Hughey claims that Morin has accepted thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions.: “As a candidate for district judge, Mr. Morin has failed to follow the law and has run his campaign in an unethical and illegal way.” Mr. Morin said that he contacted the Texas Ethics Committee to obtain the complaint, but he was told that no copy of a new complaint was available. Mr. Morin responded, “I’m trying to figure out how to reply to something that I haven’t seen.”
With scandals and distractions dominating the news about judicial elections, it’s nearly impossible for voters to get meaningful information to inform their votes. While some candidates are vindicated, others, unfortunately, are guilty. All allegations, whether true or unfounded, interrupt the normal campaign process and misdirect voter attention.
The problem isn’t confined to Texas or Ohio or any other state; the voters of Pennsylvania have to contend with these disruptions as well. However, Merit Selection offers an alternative. Merit Selection takes judges out of the fundraising game and saves them from having to mount political campaigns that have the potential to run afoul of ethical rules.