Issue: Eliminating Public Financing of Judicial Races

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June 4, 2013

14 of 15 Appeals Court Judges Ask Senate Not to Change Nonpartisan Financing of Judicial Election Campaigns

scales of justice

Fourteen of the fifteen sitting judges on the NC Court of Appeals sign a letter asking the General Assembly to keep their elections nonpartisan by preserving the voluntary public financing program for appellate court candidates. The letter is sent to Senate leader Phil Berger (R), and says that the current system protects public confidence in the independence and impartiality of the judiciary. A Senate budget proposal has repealed the program, which gives state money to candidates for general judicial election campaigns — most raised through an annual $50 licensing fee on attorneys — if they agree to fundraising restrictions. State courts are officially nonpartisan under current law. If the law is repealed, judicial candidates would be forced to raise money from private sources and run under party labels. Only Court of Appeals Judge Sanford Steelman refused to sign the letter. (NC appeals judges want current campaign system, Associated Press; Don’t mess with the courts, Greensboro News and Record)

Law Minimizes Special Interest Influence

Columnist Doug Clark, writing in support of the law, says: “The Republican-led General Assembly is moving to make those races partisan and to eliminate the public financing … The system, in place for a decade now, has helped North Carolina avoid the highly partisan, multimillion-dollar judicial campaigns seen in other states. It has minimized the influence of special interests over our courts. Unfortunately, some politicians apparently want special interests and partisanship to play a bigger role in our system of justice. So, I’m going to take a guess at Berger’s likely response to the judges: Who cares what you think?” (Don’t mess with the courts, Greensboro News and Record)

Clark 'Spot On' in 'Judicial Matters'

Blogger S.C. Harrison writes in response: “I had a brief but energetic debate with Doug Clark a few years ago about judicial elections, which I’m pretty sure I lost. My position was that returning the partisan designation would give voters a little more information to help them decide, but by the end of the conversation I was no longer so sure that would improve the judiciary. The bottom line is, whatever other issues Doug and I may disagree over, he’s usually spot-on when it comes to judicial matters …” (Justice for sale: doing away with public financing, BlueNC)

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