Gavel Grab

Groups Challenge N.C. Public Financing for Judicial Campaigns

Two political action committees that support anti-abortion candidates have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of part of North Carolina’s law that provides public financing for judicial campaigns.

Indiana-based lawyer James Bopp Jr. is representing the PACs, who brought the lawsuit in the wake of Supreme Court decision, Arizona Free Enterprise Club v. Bennett. That ruling struck down an important public financing mechanism in Arizona law (see Gavel Grab). North Carolina, the first state to provide full public financing for judicial campaigns, makes use of the mechanism, called triggered matching funds.

An Associated Press article about the North Carolina lawsuit quoted Damon Circosta, executive director of the N.C. Center for Voter Education as pointing out significant differences between public financing in the Tarheel State and in Arizona.

Circosta said that unlike Arizona’s law, North Carolina’s statute  primarily applies to judicial candidates.  Judicial elections are often regarded as needing more protection to prevent against corruption than other races, Circosta said. He also noted that Arizona’s law relied heavily on the matching funds, which are “just one component” of North Carolina’s public financing program. His organization is a Justice at Stake partner.

When the Supreme Court ruled on Arizona’s law, JAS called the ruling “disappointing, but not fatal for America’s courts.” The Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld North Carolina’s public financing law in 2008; you can learn more about public financing of judicial elections as a reform tool from the JAS issues page on the topic.



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