Nov 21 2012
Judges are increasingly forced to raise huge amounts of money for state judicial elections. A recent New York Times editorial focuses on these judicial campaigns across the country.
$28 million was spent on television advertisements in state supreme court races around the country. More than half of these television ads were paid for by groups not connected to the candidates’ campaigns.
Three Florida State Supreme Court justices raised more than $1.5 million for their retention campaigns. They needed to raise so much money because they were targeted for their alleged liberal views. Although the justices felt they needed to fight back, the public may question whether the judges are still
impartial because of new donor debts.
Michigan set records for the amount of money spent. “Of the $15 million or so spent for TV ads in Michigan, 75 percent cannot be attributed to identifiable donors, notes Rich Robinson, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.” The problem with unidentifiable donors is that litigants will not know when to request that the judge recuse himself/herself. The knowledge that a party in litigation donated money to the judge’s campaign leads to an appearance of impropriety.
This election experience, with an increasing amount of money spent on judicial campaigns “should at least hasten state efforts to revise rules for judicial recusal to take campaign contributions into account.”
Pennsylvania’s 2013 elections are looming. With expensive campaigns and a state Supreme Court Justice awaiting trial for campaign finance misconduct, what else will it take to reform our system?