Wisconsin Court Candidates Differ on Public Financing

Justice Bradley, at left, Judge Kloppenburg, at right
Justice Bradley, at left, Judge Kloppenburg, at right

In a debate on Wednesday, Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate JoAnne Kloppenburg supported the idea of returning to public financing of judicial campaigns in the state, while candidate Rebecca Bradley, an appointed incumbent seeking a full term, was skeptical.

Court of Appeals Judge Kloppenburg said public financing would spare judicial candidates having to raise campaign money from private donors, according to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.  Justice Bradley said a Supreme Court race in 2011, when public financing was permitted, demonstrated that it gives “an even more outsized voice for third-party interests.”

It was the last debate before the April 5 election. Kloppenburg accused the incumbent of an ethics lapse when she publicly discussed a case in which there is a pending motion for reconsideration. Bradley rejected the allegation and fired back by accusing Kloppenburg of hypocrisy given her remarks about occasions when judges should recuse themselves and her own record.

Ruling: Two W.Va. Court Candidates Qualify for Public Financing

The West Virginia Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that Justice Brent Benjamin and attorney Bill Wooton, vying in a May 10 election for the high bench, qualify for up to $500,000 each in the public financing of their campaigns.

Because all of the court’s justices had recused from participating in the case, temporary appointees to the high court issued the decision. The challenge was brought by another high court candidate, attorney Beth Walker. It was based on her contention that the State Election Commission had wrongly allowed the two candidates to keep public financing money although they missed filing deadlines, according to West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

The high court reversed a lower court’s finding and indicated a full opinion would be released later, according to West Virginia MetroNews. Five candidates are running for the high court, and you can learn more about TV ad purchases in it from Gavel Grab.

Two Candidates Eye Public Financing in W.Va. Court Bids

Two of three announced candidates for the West Virginia Supreme Court in an election next year say they are likely to, or will, take advantage of the state’s public financing program for judicial candidates.

Incumbent Justice Brent Benjamin has said he will use public financing, and newly announced candidate Bill Wooton, a former state senator, said he likely will opt for it, according to The Charleston Gazette-Mail.

Attorney Beth Walker, a third candidate, has said she does not plan to opt for public financing. The contest will be held under a new law making judicial races non-partisan. The article notes that Wooton held office as a Democrat and Benjamin and Walker have run for office as Republicans.

Editorial Fears Partisanship in Filling WI Court Vacancy

1384929876151.cachedGov. Scott Walker “is positioned to further tip the balance within the judicial branch” by appointing “a reckless partisan” to fill a vacancy, a Madison.com editorial says.

The editorial argues for reforms to maintain impartial courts that include public financing of judicial elections and removal of a governor’s authority to appoint Supreme Court justices.

As an alternative route to avoid partisanship, four groups recently urged Walker not to appoint one of three declared candidates for the court next year to fill the vacancy (see Gavel Grab). Naming one of the candidates now would would “exacerbate the shrill partisan and mean-spirited tone for the upcoming election,” the groups said. (more…)

Commentary: Study Shows Success of N.C. Public Financing Program

Darvocet-Stack-of-Cash-GavelNorth Carolina’s program for public financing of judicial elections, which the legislature killed in 2013 after it had operated for 11 years, helped produce judges who were more impartial, according to a study by three political scientists that is the topic of a Vox commentary.

The study was written by Morgan L.W. Hazelton, Jacob M. Montgomery, and Brendan Nyhan. According to Lee Drutman, writing at Vox, “In addition to finding evidence that justices who opted in to public financing became ‘relatively less favorable toward attorney donors,’ the paper also shows that justices who opted in to the public funding system became more moderate in their voting patterns.”

Drutman elaborates:  “As compared with the justices who continued to rely exclusively on private donors for money, the justices in the public funding system were 60 percent less likely to vote in favor of donors who contributed money to their campaigns at some point in the previous eight years.” (more…)

Recusal, Public Financing Proposals Aired in Washington

washington_flag_mapReform proposals affecting impartial justice in Washington state include calls for more restrictive judicial recusal rules and for public financing of state Supreme Court justice elections.

In the wake of two high-profile Supreme Court rulings that have favored teachers unions, state Rep. Matt Manweller, a Republican, submitted paperwork this week for a recusal initiative. Under it, according to Crosscut, a Supreme Court justice would have to step aside from a case if a litigant has given $1,000 or more to his or her election campaign in the past six years.

For background about increasing scrutiny paid to judicial campaign donors in Washington, see Gavel Grab. This week, Chief Justice Barbara Madsen was quoted by the Associated Press as saying, “”We have an elected judiciary whose job is to decide constitutional questions fairly and impartially.” (more…)

Will West Virginia Extend Public Financing to Trial Court Elections?

West_Virginia_quarter,_reverse_side,_2005A bill filed in West Virginia’s House would create the first-in-the-nation public financing program for judicial elections at the trial level, according to Gavel to Gavel, a publication of the National Center for State Courts.

Sen. Mike Romano of Harrison County said recently, according to West Virginia Public Broadcasting, “The time has come to look at public financing for our judges. It’s worked well in our Supreme Court and it does take some of the influence of big money out of the most important office in our state.” West Virginia has a public financing program for state Supreme Court elections. (more…)

Delegates Reject Bid to Expand W.Va. Public Financing Pilot Plan

Members of the West Virginia House of Delegates rejected on Tuesday an amendment to expand a pilot program for the public financing of state Supreme Court elections to include circuit court elections.

“Without this amendment, we will leave in place the greatest threat to impartiality there is,” Del. Tim Manchin, the sponsor, said, according to the Charleston Gazette. He was alluding to judges feeling beholden to big campaign donors.

Arguing against the amendment was Del. Frank Deem. “I want to know who’s giving money to the candidates, so I know where that candidate is coming from,” Deem said. The amendment was defeated on a 67-31 vote.  It was offered to amend a bill providing for nonpartisan, instead of partisan, judicial elections; the bill was to come up for a final vote in the chamber on Wednesday.

Editorial Favors Public Financing for More N.M. Judicial Elections

The rules for New Mexico’s system of public campaign financing for appellate court candidates and for the Public Regulation Commission ought to be revised, an Albuquerque Journal editorial says.

The editorial takes issue with rules that permit public financing of unopposed candidates, saying taxpayers end up financing unopposed candidates’ “free rides.” It focuses on publicly financed campaigns for two unopposed Public Regulation Commission candidates this year.

The editorial mentions that for the first time this year, an appellate court candidate won election after having received public financing through the comparatively new program, adopted for appellate courts in 2008 (see Gavel Grab for details about the election). In this context, the editorial notes that the winning judge favors elimination of public financing for candidates who are unopposed.

The savings from such a reform could go to expand the public financing program to candidates for district court judgeships, the editorial says, adding, “Not a bad idea. Do we really want our judges taking money from lawyers and others who may someday appear before them?”

New Mexico Appellate Judge is First Elected With Public Financing

VoteHanisee-posterJudge Miles Hanisee, who won election to the New Mexico Court of Appeals on Nov. 4, has a distinction: He is the first appellate judge elected with public financing since the state launched the program for statewide judicial candidates in 2008.

And for people concerned about money influencing politics, Thomas J. Cole wrote in an Albuquerque Journal column, this “was a patch of high ground in an election flooded with campaign cash from private interests.”

Both Hanisee and his opponent, Kerry Kiernan, obtained public financing under the program. Hanisee already was serving on the Court of Appeals because he was appointed to it by Gov. Susana Martinez. He earlier ran for election to the same court, accepting public financing for his campaign, and was defeated.

“It keeps lawyers’ money out of judicial races,” Hanisee said about public financing. “To me, that is the main thing you are trying to accomplish.”