Judge asks state High Court for ban on campaign solicitations
The Nevada Supreme Court has agreed to consider barring judges and judicial candidates in the state from personally soliciting or accepting campaign contributions.
The request was made by Washoe District Judge Brent Adams. He said the proposal is in the model Code of Judicial Conduct published by the American Bar Association.
“It will contribute to the integrity and independence of the judiciary and enhance public respect for the administration of justice,” said Adams in his petition to the high court.
The change would prohibit judges and judicial candidates from soliciting or accepting campaign contributions directly. Instead, judges would have to form “committees of responsible persons” to solicit and accept contributions and to run their campaigns for office.
In its order, the high court noted that federal courts in Minnesota and Alabama have declared rules barring personal solicitation of contributions in judicial campaigns as unconstitutional.
But the Nevada court also pointed out the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals said in one such case that concerns that judges might be unduly influenced by contributions stem from the state decision to elect rather than appoint judges.
“Campaigning for elected office necessarily entails raising campaign funds and seeking endorsements from prominent figures and groups in the community,” the high court quoted from one such decision.
That decision, however, also said the fact judicial candidates need support to win elections “does not suggest they will be partial if they are elected.” And that decision added the risk of undue influence really isn’t reduced very much by having the candidate name an agent to collect contributions instead of having the candidate do it directly.
The court directed Adams to file a brief analyzing the constitutional issues raised by his proposal. The justices also invited the State Bar, Judicial Discipline Commission, Nevada Attorney General, Legislative Counsel Bureau and judges’ associations in the state to join the debate.
The issue of judges having to seek contributions and run for election has been raised numerous times in Nevada. Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, has called for change in the past saying Nevada should adopt the Missouri Plan in which a judge is appointed on merit, then runs to keep the office not against another candidate but against his record – an up or down vote by the people. If a judge loses in that system, another judge is appointed using the merit system.
He and Ways and Means Chairman Morse Arberry, D-Las Vegas, have requested a bill for the 2007 Legislature that would implement that system instead of the current direct election of judges.
• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at email@example.com or 687-8750.