Forcing judges off cases because of campaign donations would impair the public's ability to participate in judicial elections, says a proposed order by the state Supreme Court that could be finalized Thursday.
"Disqualifying a judge from participating in a proceeding solely because the judge's campaign committee received a lawful contribution would create the impression that receipt of a contribution automatically impairs the judge's integrity. It would have the effect of discouraging 'the broadest possible participation in financing campaigns by all citizens of the state' through voluntary contributions . . . because it would deprive citizens who lawfully contribute to judicial campaigns, whether individually or through an organization, of access to the judges they help elect," says the proposed order, which quotes from state statutes.
On a 4-3 vote, the court in October voted to adopt a rule that said campaign contributions and endorsements alone do not require judges to step aside in cases. They also approved a rule that said ads run by groups independent of a judge's campaign in and of themselves were not enough to require the judge to step aside.
The October vote showed how the justices felt about the new rules in concept, but to put them into effect they need to issue a written order. That order, which includes a detailed rationale for the rules, will be debated Thursday and could be approved then.
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Proposed Order on Judicial Donations Remain Up for Debate