Why big donors give to judicial campaigns, political charges over taking money from trial lawyers, and a political party’s filing ethics complaints form the basis of today’s report from judicial elections nationwide.
In Pennsylvania, most of the money given to both sides in a state Supreme Court race this cycle came from the political action committee of the Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association, according to Choose Judges on Merit, the blog of Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts. The candidates are Jack Panella and Joan Orie Melvin.
Quoting from the Legal Intelligencer, the blog raised questions about a single organization giving too much money in a campaign, versus challenges in getting donors to contribute money that’s needed for election costs if they have no interest in the outcome. The blog asked further:
“Why do individuals, organizations and PAC’s give to some candidates and not others? What motivates an individual or entity to contribute to a judicial candidate? And how do the answers to these questions affect the public perception of our courts — already severely diminished and inclined to believe that ‘justice is for sale?’”
In a state Supreme Court race in Louisiana, District Judge Marcus Clark attacked opponent Jimmy Faircloth Jr. of Pineville “for being a trial lawyer,” according to an article in The Town Talk of Alexandria, La. At the same time, Clark’s campaign reported receiving $5,000 from a past president of the Louisiana Trial Lawyers Association, the article said.
Clark may be handicapped politically because he was sanctioned earlier by the Supreme Court for not ruling on some cases in a timely fashion; he was suspended for 30 days without pay. (See earlier Gavel Grab story here about ethics officials accusing Clark of misrepresenting the reasons for his suspension.) The judicial contest is viewed by some as “one that is enshrouded in negative campaigning and old-time Louisiana politics,” The Town Talk reported.
In New York State, Ulster County Democrats announced the filing of complaints accusing a Republican candidate for judge of improperly endorsing a Republican candidate in another contest, and of using improper “push polls” against the Democratic judicial candidate. The Republican candidate for judge is Donald Williams, the Democrat is Deborah Schneer.
Williams said he was “not going to respond to political maneuvering,” the Times Herald-Record reported in a news story, and his campaign said he had made no formal endorsement. A video posted to YouTube captured Williams’ controversial remark, according to the newspaper, which reported he said this: “I’m not permitted as a judicial candidate…to endorse people. But if I were permitted to do it, I can’t think of anyone more qualified than this beautiful lady to my right.”