From an editorial Tuesday in the Washington Post:
America’s unusual practice of electing judges has long undermined the integrity of the justice system. But the problem is getting worse: In the Citizens United age, the courtroom is becoming the next frontier in rancorous political division.
The last election cycle saw a record $24 million spent on judicial elections by outside groups, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School. This cycle is still underway, but the signals are discouraging.
Candidate spending on television ads in North Carolina’s judicial elections has passed $1 million, and would-be judges now have to raise money themselves after the legislature revoked public financing of judicial campaigns. This term the Supreme Court will hear a challenge to Florida’s restrictions on judicial candidates soliciting donations. Keeping the limits would help preserve trust in the judiciary.
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Regulating judicial elections is better than doing nothing, but it is not the best approach. Eliminating them is. A judge’s job is not to serve a constituency, a particular donor or an ideology. It is to make a good-faith effort to apply the law.