Are Judicial Elections Too Political?

As Chair of the Special Committee on Judicial Election Campaign  Intervention, I recently received an email from a Concerned Lawyer about an opinion.

His chief complaint was that judicial positions have become political positions and have become too “politicalized” (my word).  He asked what could be done.

Here is an excerpt from how I responded.

Canon 5F of the Mississippi Code of Judicial Conduct governs judicial elections. It creates what is called the “Special Committee on Judicial Election Campaign Intervention.” The Special Committee has the responsibility “to issue advisory opinions and to deal expeditiously with allegations of ethical misconduct in campaigns for judicial office.” The objective of the Special Committee shall be to alleviate unethical and unfair campaign practices in judicial elections.

You also asked what you might do about the “politicalization” (my word) of the judicial elections. May I share several thoughts.

First, you may ask for an opinion from the Special Committee or you may file a complaint against a candidate. You may provide the Special Committee with any information that you believe may be relevant, including citations to the Code of Judicial Conduct, statutes, cases, or any other relevant facts or law. If you have a concern with an Opinion or any campaign conduct, you may certainly file a request for an opinion or a complaint that asks the Special Committee to change, revise or modify a opinion.

Second, you may file a petition to revise the Code of Judicial Conduct with the Supreme Court. I have done that before, and I believe the Supreme Court gives proper consideration to every such petition filed by a member of the Bar. I encourage you to share your concerns and thoughts for improvement with the Supreme Court. I have and will continue to do so.

Third, you may get involved in the judicial elections and work hard for your selected candidate(s). One of the reasons that candidates have to raise money and have to rely on social media is that lawyers have been unwilling to get involved in these elections. I encourage you and your friends to get involved in this year’s judicial elections. Let your voice be heard for the candidates you believe would serve with integrity, honor and respect. You can make a difference to the public’s perception of judicial elections.

This year, the Special Committee is making an attempt to ensure that all opinions are published and made known to the candidate, their committees, the bench, the bar and the public. I plan to post other opinions. If you look back in the archives of my blog, you will see a lot of information about judicial elections. I am trying my best to educate people on judicial elections. I will certainly consider any thoughts that you may have.

You may also go to the Special Committee page on the Supreme Court website for more opinions and information. https://courts.ms.gov/Newsite2/commissions/campaignintervention.php

Thank you for your interest and participation in this year’s judicial elections.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you would like for me to speak to your bar association or community organization about judicial elections.

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