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July 31, 1999 Policy

Judicial Campaign Finance


American Bar Association

Standing Committee on Election Law
Ad Hoc Committee on Judicial Campaign Finance Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility
Judicial Division
Special Committee on Judicial Independence

Adopted by the House of Delegates
August 1999

RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association hereby affirms its commitment to the merit selection of judges, and urges all jurisdictions to enact constitutional provisions setting out procedures for the merit selection and either appointment or retention election of their judges; and

FURTHER RESOLVED, That in states in which merit selection and retention of judges have not been established by constitutional change or legislative enactment, state and local bar associations be encouraged to persuade the governors of their respective states to establish, on their own motion, judicial nominating commissions to advise them with respect to the filling of judicial vacancies, and to appoint only such judges as are recommended by the nominating commission; and

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges state and local bar associations to support and promote the development of educational initiatives to inform the public regarding the nature of judicial responsibilities, the importance of the independence of the judiciary, the qualifications of candidates for judicial office, and the proper operation of the nation's courts; and

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the ABA Code of Judicial Conduct (1990) be amended by adding the following new subsections:

ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct

Canon 3

A judge shall perform the duties of judicial office impartially and diligently

C. Administrative Responsibilities

(5) A judge shall not appoint a lawyer to a position if the judge either knows that the lawyer has contributed more than [$ ] within the prior [ ] years to the judge's election campaign, * or learns of such a contribution by means

of a timely motion by a party or other person properly interested in the matter, unless
(a) the position is substantially uncompensated;
(b) the lawyer has been selected in rotation from a list of qualified and available lawyers compiled without regard to their having made political contributions; or
(c) the judge or another presiding or administrative judge affirmatively finds that no other lawyer is willing, competent and able to accept the position.

* This provision is meant to be applicable wherever judges are subject to public election; specific amount and time limitations, to be determined based on circumstances within the jurisdiction, should be inserted in the brackets.

E. Disqualification
(1) A judge shall disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the judge's impartiality might reasonably be questioned, including but not limited to instances where:
(e) the judge knows or learns by means of a timely motion that a party or a party's lawyer has within the previous [ ] year[s] made aggregate** contributions to the judge's campaign in an amount that is greater than [[ [$ ] for an individual or [$ ] for an entity] ]] [[is reasonable and appropriate for an individual or an entity]]. *

* This provision is meant to be applicable wherever judges are subject to public election. Jurisdictions that adopt specific dollar limits on contributions in section 5 (C) (3) should adopt the same limits in section 3 (E)(1)(e). Where specific dollar amounts determined by local circumstances are not used, the "reasonable and appropriate" language should be used.

Canon 5

A judge or judicial candidate shall refrain from inappropriate political activity

(C) Judges and candidates subject to public election
(3) A candidate shall instruct his or her campaign committee(s) at the start of the campaign not to accept campaign contributions for any election that exceed, in the aggregate **, $[ ] from an individual or $[ ] from an entity.
This limitation is in addition to the limitations provided in Section 5C(2). ***
(4) In addition to complying with all applicable statutory requirements for disclosure of campaign contributions, campaign committees established by a candidate shall file with [ ]* a report stating the name, address, occupation and employer of each person who has made campaign

contributions to the committee whose value in the aggregate** exceed [$ ].
**** The report must be filed within [ ] ***** days following the election.

Add with asterisks the following explanatory notes:

* Each jurisdiction should identify an appropriate depository for the information required under this provision, giving consideration to the public's need for convenient and timely access to the information. Electronic filing is to be preferred.
** In the Terminology Section of the Code:
"Aggregate" in relation to contributions for a candidate under Sections 3 E (1)(e) and 5 C (3) and (4) denotes not only contributions in cash or in kind made directly to a candidate's committee or treasurer, but also, except in retention elections, all contributions made indirectly with the understanding that they will be used to support the election of the candidate or to oppose the election of the candidate's opponent.
*** Jurisdictions wishing to adopt campaign contribution limits that are lower than generally applicable campaign finance regulations provide should adopt this provision, inserting appropriate dollar amounts where brackets appear.
**** Jurisdictions wishing to adopt campaign contribution disclosure levels lower than those set in generally applicable campaign finance regulations should adopt this provision, inserting appropriate dollar amounts where brackets appear.
***** A time period chosen by the adopting jurisdiction should appear in the bracketed space.