Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Problems That Bedevil Judicial Campaign Contributions

The Minnesota Supreme Court has substantially revised its Code of Judicial Conduct effective July 1, 2009. The new rules as attached: "Because the vast majority of the provisions of the existing Code of Judicial Conduct are either delated, amended, or reorganized, the existing Code is aborgated but is not reproduced ib this order in strikethrough format."

Two justices took no part in consideration of the effective date or the revised provisions relating to judicial elections. Justice Anderson, joined by Justice Meyer, dissent from the rules establishing contribution limits on judicial casmpaigns:

I have both practical and philosophical objections...As a practical matter, I fear we have asked the underfunded Board on Judicial Standards, which enforces the [code] , to undertake a task for which it is ill-equipped and without experience.

As to the philosophical:

The unstated assumption underlying candidate contribution limits is that it is somehow less unseemly to accept ten contributions in $500.00 amounts from those professing a particular viewpoint or having a particular background, than to have a single contributpr of $5,000.00. It is not at all clear to me that this assumption is correct.

Finally, because the problems that bedevil the byzantine, complicated, and ever expanding command and control campaign finance regulatory structure crated for other elections, both in Minnesota and elsewhere, will eventually affect judicial elections, we might want to consider the wisdom of returning to first principles. What goals do we seek to fulfill with campaign finance regulation? What have been the unintended consequences of past reforms? Would a system focusing more on disclosure and less on rigid prohibitions be more successful? Answers to these questions might be illuminating and might lead to different, and perhaps better, approach to public policy in regulating campaign finance.

(Mike Frisch)

Judicial Ethics and the Courts | Permalink

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