A National Partnership Working for Fair and Impartial Courts
Contact Us Home July 21, 2018
"It appears that justice indeed is for sale."
Hugh Caperton, plaintiff in Caperton v. Massey


Roy Schotland

"The greatest current threat to judicial independence is the increasing politicization of judicial elections. They are becoming nastier, noisier, and  costlier."

—Roy Schotland, professor emeritus, Georgetown University School of Law

Negative campaign ads, by candidates and by third-party special-interest groups, have hijacked many judicial elections and turned them into exercises in mudslinging. In the 2009-10 election cycle, for example, an onslaught of negative ads often involved misleading claims that judicial candidates were soft on crime.

A race to the bottom is not necessary.
One response to negative campaigning is the establishment of nonpartisan campaign conduct committees, made up of prominent community and legal leaders. These committees seek agreement from all candidates to avoid negative campaign tactics, and then report to the public and media on whether a campaign steps over the line.

Conduct committees thus provide one line of defense against overheated judicial elections that undermine public confidence in our courts. Unfortunately, they are less equipped to address negative campaigns run by "independent" groups not affiliated with the official campaigns. These groups account for a disproportionate share of negative ads and have been called the "attack dogs of judicial politics."


Resources on Campaigning

TV Ad Videos

National Ad Hoc Advisory Committee on Judicial Campaign Conduct

The positions and policies of Justice at Stake publications and campaign partners are their own, and do not necessarily reflect those of other campaign partners or board members.
Website Design in Iowa by Global Reach