Arkansas Task Force Considers Reforms for Judicial Elections

A task force in Arkansas, created in response to soaring spending in judicial elections in some other states, is weighing possible reforms.

State Supreme Court Justice Robert Brown, chairman of the Arkansas Bar Association’s Task Force on Judicial Election Reform, said at a panel discussion in Little Rock that judicial races ought to be different from races for other elective offices.  “If they’re not different, it will indeed undermine the dignity and the respect for the courts,” he cautioned, according to an Arkansas News article.

The task force is considering these ideas: A response committee to publicly identify falsehoods issued in judicial races; a voter guide with information about candidates for judgeships, provided by the candidates; and urge candidates to pledge voluntarily to run fair campaigns and abide by canons of judicial conduct.

Also participating in the panel was state Sen. Gilbert Baker,  a Republican critic of the task force’s work.

An article in the Pennsylvania Record, meanwhile, mentioned proposals in the legislature for the merit selection of judges.

“The electoral system comes down to who can raise the most money, produce the best ads and campaign the hardest. None of these qualities are relevant to the judicial system. I believe merit selection could help to restore the faith of the people in this important branch of state government,” said Republican Rep. Bryan Cutler, a sponsor of the legislation.

“No system is void of politics, but Pennsylvanians deserve a system designed to seat the most qualified judges possible,” said Lynn Marks, executive director of Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, a JAS partner group.

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