I received the following "press release" from regarding judicial elections. To be blunt, I am no fan of this committee and their interference in judicial elections under the guise of keeping them under control. By setting up false standards and attempting to coerce the candidates to give up their political rights regarding campaign speech and financing, they are impeding and interfering with the lawful political process. The law is clear on what a judicial candidate can say and do. If you don't like it, then change the way we pick our judges. Muzzling the candidates by a committee vigilant on their own particular sense of judicial campaign propriety is wrong. Plain and simple.
Do I agree with the committee's hopes and aspirations? Of course, I do. But judicial elections are part of our political process because that is the way we made them. I see one judicial candidate facebooking away with photos of him with the governor and the president, both of whom are somewhat politically connected. Does a polite and passive posture of physical proximity imply an endorsement or simply politics and name dropping from the old school.
Bottom line is that it is legal. It is also legal to ask for money, give opinions, and post your political party. Unseemly and not "judicial"? Of course. But, politically "correct" and legal? Yes, to that too.
But, I will post their press release because I do want a different way of electing or should I say selecting our judges. A way better than gentlemen's and gentlewomen's agreements that favor those with better known names, well financed campaigns, and an endorsement system connection that reaks of backdoor politics.
The muzzle keeps the public in the dark as to what is really happening. Open the door as far as the law allows OR change the way we select/elect our judges. But don't corrupt the system by implied threats based upon your sense of right and wrong.
Oh well.... Here's the press release:
Kentucky Judicial Campaign Conduct Committee cautions judicial candidates about soliciting and accepting contributions
August 14, 2010
In a Kentucky case decided July 13, 2010, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held that judicial candidates have First Amendment rights to personally solicit campaign funds and to announce their party affiliation and receive political party endorsements. The appellate court sent the case of Carey v. Wolnitzek back to U.S. District Judge Karen Caldwell to determine the meaning of the word “issue” in the Kentucky Supreme Court rule that prohibits judicial candidates from saying how they will rule on “issues.”
The Kentucky Judicial Campaign Conduct Committee, a non-profit, non-partisan and non-governmental body, is concerned that the ruling on contributions may undermine the integrity of judicial elections and thus damage public regard for the judiciary. While candidates have a First Amendment right to personally solicit campaign funds, they should recognize the coercion inherent in a judge personally asking lawyers who practice before the judge to give money to the judge’s election campaign.
All judicial candidates should recognize the appearance of favoritism created by acceptance of substantial funds from a litigant or attorney with business before the court. We believe the better practice is to follow the procedure that has been in place for many years in Kentucky; that is to use a committee to raise campaign funds. We also believe that in order for voters to be fully aware of who is supporting candidates, the General Assembly should require immediate or near-immediate reporting of large contributions between the day that books close for the last pre-election campaign-finance report and the day of the election. Now, contributions during that approximate two-week period are unknown until after the election.
The Committee also believes that judicial candidates should refrain from making statements about issues that might come before them. Judicial races are not like races for the executive or legislative branches. In those branches of government, candidates routinely promise the voters that they will, if elected, vote a certain way on issues. In judicial races, on the other hand, candidates should only promise to fairly interpret and apply the law and the U.S. and Kentucky constitutions, to treat all litigants fairly and with dignity, and to approach every case with an open mind and without pre-judgment. A judicial candidate who speaks out on issues should remind voters of these obligations, and a candidate who appears to promise how he or she will decide an issue has an obligation to let another judge handle the case if the issue arises in the judge’s court.
Kentucky Judicial Campaign Conduct Committee Inc.
Released Aug. 12, 2010
Contact: Spencer Noe, chairman, 859-422-7509; Al Cross, secretary, 502-682-2848