Judicial Campaigns and Elections
Following the 1996 elections, the Alabama Supreme Court created a judicial campaign oversight committee to advise candidates regarding campaign conduct during the 1998 elections. Because of the committee's success in improving judicial campaign conduct in 1998, committees were also established for the 2000 and 2006 elections.
For more information on Alabama's judicial campaign oversight committee, see Judicial Selection Reform: Examples from Six States.
Alaska does not have a committee that monitors and comments on judicial campaign conduct.
District of Columbia
During the 1998 election, a challenger to an incumbent supreme court justice was cited by the special committee on judicial election campaign intervention for violating the provision of the code of judicial conduct that bars candidates from making misleading statements. The candidate responded by challenging the constitutionality of the rule against misleading campaign speech, the rule prohibiting judicial candidates from personally soliciting campaign funds and public endorsements, and the rule allowing the special committee to issue public statements. The federal district court struck down the misleading statements provision but upheld the other two provisions. Weaver v. Bonner, 114 F.Supp.2d 1337 (N.D. Ga. 2000). On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit struck down all three provisions as violating the First Amendment. 309 F.3d 1312 (11th Cir. 2002). According to the court, "the distinction between judicial elections and other types of elections has been greatly exaggerated, and we do not believe that the distinction, if there truly is one, justifies greater restriction on speech during judicial campaigns than during other types of campaigns." Id., at 1321. In early 2003, the court denied a request for an en banc rehearing. The Florida Supreme Court made the necessary amendments to the code of judicial conduct in 2004.
There are two committees in Illinois that monitor judicial campaign conduct and serve as a resource for candidates. The Task Force on Judicial Elections is a statewide effort of the Illinois State Bar Association, the Chicago Bar Association, the Illinois Judges Association, and the Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening, and is coordinated by the Cook County Judicial Advisory Council. Formed in 2000, the goal of the task force is to provide coordinated bar association support for judicial elections through educational programs, technical support, and recommendations for improvement to the judicial selection system. The task force offers a pre-election hotline as a resource for candidates with questions about ethical rules, and applicable judicial ethics materials are posted on the web sites of the ISBA and the CBA.
In 2002, the ISBA formed the Supreme and Appellate Court Election Campaign Tone and Conduct Committee. Candidates are provided with a guide to ethical campaign practices and are asked to sign a pledge regarding campaign advertising.
Iowa does not have a committee that monitors and comments on judicial campaign conduct.
The Judicial Campaign Conduct Committee was created in 2005 at the initiative of the chief justice. The committee includes attorneys, retired judges, and members of the business community. The committee asks candidates to sign an agreement to abide by Standards for the Conduct of Contested Judicial Election Campaigns. The committee receives complaints about candidate behavior and issues public statements as necessary. The committee also works to educate the public regarding the specific role that judges play in our society.
In 2002, the supreme court amended the code of judicial conduct to create a special committee on judicial election campaign intervention to address allegations of campaign misconduct. The committee consists of five members, with one member each appointed by the chief justice, the governor, the lieutenant governor, the speaker of the house of representatives, and the chair of the commission on judicial performance. Three members must be attorneys. The committee is empowered to educate judicial candidates, receive complaints about campaign conduct, initiate investigations, issue cease and desist orders and advisory opinions, and refer matters to the commission on judicial performance.
In 1998, the committee required three district court candidates to alter their campaign materials to conform to the code of judicial conduct. The candidates filed suit, asserting that the committee's decision violated their First Amendment rights. In Mahan v. Judicial Ethics and Election Practices Commission (D. Nev. 2000), a federal judge upheld the provision of the code that bars judicial candidates from knowingly misrepresenting "the identity, qualifications, present position or other fact concerning" themselves or their opponents, but struck down as vague and overbroad a provision that requires judicial candidates to "maintain the dignity appropriate to judicial office" and to "act in a manner consistent with the integrity and independence of the judiciary."
In 2001, the New York State Bar Association established the Special Committee on Judicial Campaign Conduct. The committee has created model guidelines for conduct committees at the county level, a model pledge for candidates, and a brochure outlining the rules for conducting judicial campaigns. Local campaign oversight committees exist in Erie, Monroe, New York, and Onandaga Counties.
Working with the Judicial Campaign Ethics Center, the Judicial Campaign Ethics Subcommittee of the New York State Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics interprets campaign conduct rules and provides judicial candidates with rapid responses to ethics questions about their prospective campaign conduct, on a confidential basis. In 2006, the committee released an updated Judicial Campaign Ethics Handbook.
In the spring of 2002, the OSBA established a statewide judicial election campaign advertising monitoring committee. Candidates for the Ohio Supreme Court were asked to sign an agreement that they would conduct their campaigns in accordance with Canon 7, the committee's guidelines, and "The Higher Ground Standards of Conduct for Judicial Candidates" promulgated by The Constitution Project; take personal responsibility for their campaign materials; and publicly disavow and condemn materials issued by unauthorized sources that violate the agreement. Candidates were also asked to allow the committee to eliminate false, misleading, unfair, unethical, or illegal statements or campaign materials issued on their behalf and to submit all campaign materials for review at least 48 hours in advance of distribution. None of the four supreme court candidates in the 2002 elections signed the pledge, although each vowed to conduct a clean campaign.
Voluntary judicial election monitoring committees have been established by bar associations in Cuyahoga and Franklin Counties. Candidates enter into voluntary campaign conduct agreements in which committees consider complaints filed by candidates, pre-screen campaign advertisements, work with candidates whose materials and/or conduct are problematic in order to make appropriate modifications, and, where agreement cannot be reached, publicize noncompliance and refer the matter for formal review.
In 1998, the Oklahoma Supreme Court directed the Oklahoma Bar Association to establish a three-member Professional Responsibility Panel on Judicial Elections. The panel is responsible for dealing expeditiously with allegations of ethical misconduct in judicial campaigns. The panel consists of a lawyer who has been a member of the Oklahoma bar for at least 25 years, a member of the judicial ethics advisory panel, and a lay person. The panel investigates complaints involving violations of Canon 5 during the course of judicial campaigns. If the panel determines that speedy intervention is warranted, the panel may issue a confidential cease-and-desist request to the candidate or organization believed to be in violation of Canon 5. If the request is disregarded or the campaign practices continue, the panel may refer the matter to the general counsel of the Oklahoma Bar Association or the council on judicial complaints.
In 1998, the South Dakota Supreme Court took steps to ensure that judicial candidates act in accordance with the code of judicial conduct during their election campaigns. The court enacted a rule requiring judicial candidates to complete a two-hour course on campaign practices, finance, and ethics sponsored by the judicial qualifications commission.
In 2006, the supreme court created the Special Committee on Judicial Election Campaign Intervention. The committee sends to judicial candidates the relevant code provisions and summaries of advisory opinions relating to campaign conduct and practices. Candidates are required to return a form acknowledging that they have read and understood the materials and that they agree to be bound by the standards. The committee is authorized to deal expeditiously with allegations of ethical misconduct in judicial campaigns and can issue confidential cease-and-desist requests, release a public statement regarding violations of the code, and/or refer the matter to the relevant disciplinary body.
Vermont does not have a committee that monitors and comments on the campaign conduct of probate court candidates.
The King County Bar Association has adopted guidelines for the conduct of campaigns for judicial office. Judicial candidates are asked to agree in writing to become familiar with and abide by the guidelines and all applicable laws and regulations. Judicial candidates are also asked to agree to "cause those managing [their] campaign[s] to read this Agreement and to abide by its terms." The bar has also created a fair campaign practices committee to probe complaints of unfair judicial campaign conduct or violations of the guidelines.
In early 2008, the Washington Committee for Ethical Judicial Campaigns was formed. Its members include lawyers, retired judges, and other citizens. The committee's purpose is to help ensure that judicial campaigns "are run with integrity and fairness by candidates who adhere to the highest ethical standards." Candidates are asked to sign a pledge regarding the conduct of their campaigns, and the committee will publicize their agreement or refusal to do so. The committee will monitor campaign advertisements and literature, request that improper ads be withdrawn or disavowed, and may make public statements regarding the ads at issue.
In 2006, the West Virginia State Bar established the Judicial Election Campaign Advertising Commission.
Following the 2007 supreme court elections, the State Bar of Wisconsin created a task force to monitor the April 2008 supreme court races. The bipartisan seven-member Judicial Campaign Integrity Committee educated voters about the unique role of judges and monitored campaign-related activities of candidates and their supporters. The committee sought pledges from candidates that they would adhere to the code of judicial conduct, which defines permissible judicial campaign activities. The committee also reviewed campaign materials produced by candidates and their supporters to determine if any such materials violated the code. While the committee concentrated on supreme court elections in 2008, its scope may be expanded in the future to include all judicial races.