NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Public Financing Of Judicial Races?

July 23, 2001

An American Bar Association study being released today proposes that the public should finance state supreme court races and some appeals court judicial campaigns. The association says that in some states the costs of running for judgeships has increased by up to 2,000 percent over the last 30 years.

The proposal is bound to raise controversy. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, for example, sees it as an effort to mute natural debate in the political process. And others question the costs involved.

  • Thirty-nine states now elect their judges.
  • Although 14 states provide some public financing to candidates for other offices, the report said, proposals to finance judicial races have drawn little attention because campaign excesses have only recently attracted widespread attention.
  • Some candidates for state supreme courts now spend more than $1 million for campaigns.

The study was conducted by a commission appointed by the bar association in 1999. The report will not become official ABA policy until it is voted on by its governing House of Delegates.

Source: William Glaberson, "Lawyers' Study Says States Should Pay for Court Races," New York Times, July 23, 2001; "Commission on Public Financing of Judicial Campaigns Report," American Bar Association Standing Committee on Judicial Independence, July 2001.

For ABA report


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