Kentucky Judicial Campaign Conduct Committee

600 West Main Street, Louisville KY 40202
502-583-5314 Fax 502-583-4113 E-mail: kjccc@loubar.org

Spencer Noe, Chair and President -- -- -- Anthony Wilhoit, Vice Chair and Vice President
Al Cross, Secretary


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Press Release: Some elections are about more than Democrats and Republicans
Candidates Sign Pledge on Campaign Conduct
Rules for Complaints & Investigation Requests

Some elections are about more than
Democrats and Republicans

With the 2007 general election less than two months away, voters will soon be hearing more and more about the Democratic and Republican candidates on the statewide ballot. However, many counties in the Commonwealth will also have dramatically different kind of contests — nonpartisan judicial elections, for district and circuit courts and a seat on the Court of Appeals.

The members of the non-partisan, unofficial Kentucky Judicial Campaign Conduct Committee Inc. hope the judicial candidates and the voters will remember that a judicial election is a special type of election, with some basic principles that separate it from other elections:

• The public deserves judges who are open-minded and decide cases impartially, based on the facts and law of a particular case. Candidates may state their views on legal and political issues, but according to court rules, they may not indicate how they might rule on a matter.

• Records of candidates are fair game in campaigns but can be easy to distort or misrepresent. Judges make hundreds of decisions during a term of office, and it is inevitable that some will be unpopular – or turn out to be, or seem, mistaken. A lawyer’s legal career cannot always be defined by one case or a set of cases. Voters should choose candidates based on their complete records, and remember that the best judges are those who aren’t afraid to make decisions that might be unpopular. The judges’ code of conduct says, “A judge shall not be swayed by partisan interests, public clamor, or fear of criticism.”

• Since the state constitutional amendment reforming the courts in 1975, Kentuckians have cast their ballots to elect judges independent of the partisan political system. This means voters should not ask judges about their affiliation or use that as a reason for their vote. Voters who expect a judge to have a platform on issues, like candidates in other elections, are expecting to have a judge whose mind is made up before hearing all the evidence. That is not what Kentuckians voted for in 1975, or what they need today.

• Judicial campaigns can be costly, and candidates in some races must raise money to compete. The public has a right to know who is contributing and how much, so candidates are required to make that information public, and the news media should report it. It is important that candidates avoid the appearance of being indebted to their contributors. In several states bordering Kentucky, interest groups and individuals have spent millions on campaigns for appellate-court seats, and bragged about their success – suggesting that the elected judges are obligated to decide cases the way their contributors want. Candidates should assure the public that they are not indebted to their contributors and must disavow any statements by interest groups that suggest candidates are bought and paid for.

• The public deserves a dignified judiciary, and a dignified judiciary requires dignified campaigning. The code of judicial conduct requires candidates to “maintain the dignity appropriate to judicial office” and to encourage their family members to do so as well. The code of conduct requires judges to know and be faithful to the law, to be “patient, dignified and courteous,” to “perform judicial duties without bias or prejudice,” and to “dispose of judicial matters promptly, efficiently and fairly.

Voters should choose candidates whose campaigns suggest they embody these qualities. The Kentucky Judicial Campaign Conduct Committee Inc. was created to encourage such campaigns, and to help candidates and voters set boundaries for campaign behavior. The Committee is an unofficial, nonpartisan group with no official power, but in last year’s judicial elections issued opinions about several campaigns in response to inquiries and complaints.

(Released September 8, 2007)


candidates sign campaign conduct pledge

Seven candidates in this year’s Kentucky judicial elections have already signed a pledge to disavow false or misleading advertising and accusations that “impugn the integrity of the judicial system, the integrity of a candidate, or erode public trust and confidence in the independence and impartiality of the judiciary.”

The pledge also includes adherence to campaign rules in the Kentucky Code of Judicial Conduct, which applies to all judicial candidates. It is being offered by the Kentucky Judicial Campaign Conduct Committee, a non-profit, non-partisan group that has no official authority but was formed last year to help protect the integrity of the judiciary during judicial elections.

The agreement’s preface says, “The actions of candidates for judicial office affect the integrity and independence of our judicial system, reflecting on both the Kentucky judicial system and the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Therefore, it is important that judicial election campaigns be conducted in such a way that enhances the candidate’s reputation, brings credit to the individual, and reflects the dignity and integrity of judicial office and the independence of the judiciary.”

The Code of Judicial Conduct sets minimum standards for campaigns, but the Committee believes judicial candidates should aspire to a level of campaign conduct that reflects their respect for the dignity and integrity of judicial office and the independence of the judiciary.

The agreement states, “In keeping with these principles and objectives and in order to promote public confidence in both attorneys and judges, I hereby agree to conduct my campaign in accordance with the Kentucky Code of Judicial Conduct. I further agree to disavow advertisements that use false or misleading information and/or accusations to impugn the integrity of the judicial system, the integrity of a candidate, or erode public trust and confidence in the independence and impartiality of the judiciary.”

All candidates running for judicial seats in Kentucky this year are being asked to sign the campaign agreement. One of two opposed candidates running for the Court of Appeals signed the pledge. In races for the circuit and district courts, six candidates signed it. Overall, it has been signed by 21 percent of all opposed judicial candidates in Kentucky.

A list of those who have signed the agreement is below. Candidates may sign the agreement at any time. Candidates may fax agreements to 859-323-3168 to the attention of Al Cross. For more information contact Chair and President Spencer Noe at 859-225-8700.

CANDIDATES SIGNING THE AGREEMENT IN 2007

COURT OF APPEALS

3rd Appellate District, Division 1: (Adair, Bell, Casey, Clay, Clinton, Cumberland, Estill, Garrard, Green, Jackson, Knox, Laurel, Lee, Leslie, Lincoln, Marion, McCreary, Metcalfe, Monroe, Nelson, Pulaski, Rockcastle, Russell, Taylor, Washington, Wayne, and Whitley counties) (For a district map, click here.)
Clay M. Bishop Jr., Manchester; 606-598-5110, cbishoplaw@juno.com

CIRCUIT COURT (For a map of circuits, click here.)

4th Circuit, Family Court, Divison 2
: (Hopkins County)
Susan Wesley McClure, swmcclure@newwavecomm.net

6th Circuit, Division 1: (Daviess County)
No candidates have signed the agreement.

9th Circuit, Divison 2: (Hardin County)
No candidates have signed the agreement.

9th Circuit, Family Court, Divison 4: (Hardin County)
No candidates have signed the agreement.

14th Circuit, Family Court, Division 3: (Bourbon, Scott , and Woodford counties)
No candidates have signed the agreement.

16th Circuit, Division 1: (Kenton County)
Martin J. Sheehan, Ft. Wright; martsheehan@fuse.net

30th Circuit, Division 7: (Jefferson County)

No candidates have signed the agreement.

34th Circuit, Division 1: (McCreary and Whitley counties)
No candidates have signed the agreement.

39th Circuit, Family Court, Division 2: (Breathitt, Powell, and Wolfe counties)
Patrick E. O'Neill, Jackson; peoneill@bellsouth.net

41st Circuit, Division 1: (Clay, Jackson, and Leslie counties)
No candidates have signed the agreement.

49th Circuit, Division 2: (Allen and Simpson counties)
Martha Blair Harrison, Scottsville

51st Circuit, Division 1: (Henderson County)
No candidates have signed the agreement.

54th Circuit, Family Court, Division 3: (Boone and Gallatin counties)
No candidates have signed the agreement.

57th Circuit, Division 2, Family Court
: (Russell and Wayne counties)
Jennifer Upchurch-Clark, Russell Springs; 270-858-2361

DISTRICT COURT (For a map of districts, click here.)

8th District, Divison 3: (Warren County)
John Brown, 270-791-5585

25th Circuit, Division 3: (Clark and Madison counties)
No candidates have signed the agreement.

For a list of candidates in all races, click here.


Rules for complaints & investigation requests

1. Only the Chair or his designee may communicate with the press or issue statements on behalf of the Committee. The Vice-chair may act if the Chair is unavailable.

2. Committee meetings and records are open to the public and press. (Exception: Rule 12)

3. A quorum of seven members is required (in person or by conference call) for the Committee to act officially. Proxy voting is not allowed. A majority of those present and voting is required for Committee action, except that public announcements are not authorized except by vote of at least 60% of the members present in person or by conference call.

4. Meetings of the Committee shall be held as agreed upon by the Committee. In addition, a meeting may be called by the Chair or any three members of the Committee.

5. Members shall be given reasonable notice of the date time and place of Committee meetings; however failure to notify a committee member shall not invalidate an action of the Committee.

6. The Committee may consider matters pertaining to judicial campaigning of which it becomes aware on its own initiative or a result of a written complaint or written request for investigation from any source. Judicial campaigning shall include, but not be limited to, “judicial advertising” – that is, statements and campaign materials issued by a candidate for a judicial office in Kentucky or by an independent campaign committee or individual. Examples of judicial advertising include: newspaper, radios, and tv advertising, website postings. press releases, brochures and yard signs.

7. Complaints or requests for investigation shall be immediately forwarded to the Chair (or to the Vice-Chair if the Chair is not available). As soon as practicable, the Chair shall appoint a sub-committee of at least three persons to review and investigate the complaint or request for investigation. In appointing the sub-committee the Chair shall choose members able and willing to act promptly to review and investigate the complaint or request for investigation.

8. If the sub-committee determines that the complaint is without merit or that the request for investigation requires no further action, it shall so advise the complainant or requester and report its action to the full committee.

9. If the sub-committee determines that the complaint has merit and it appears that there is time for timely action by the full committee, the sub-committee shall so advise the Chair, who will notify the candidate or appropriate group that he/she or it is the subject of a complaint. If the complaint is with regard to an advertisement sponsored by an independent campaign committee, the Chair will notify the candidate or candidates who are the subject of the advertisement as well as the independent committee itself. The Chair will convene the full committee either in person or telephonically as soon as practicable to consider the report of the sub-committee and the response, if any, of the candidate or interest group. The Committee shall then take whatever action appears appropriate under the circumstances.

10. If the sub-committee determines that the complaint has merit and it is impractical to refer the complaint to the full committee because of time constraints or otherwise, the sub-committee shall so advise the Chair (or, in his absence, the Vice-Chair), who may, after consultation with the sub-committee, act on behalf of the Committee. The Chair shall report the action taken to the full committee.

11. If the sub-committee determines that a request for investigation is warranted, the Chair (or in his absence the Vice Chair) may direct such investigation as appears appropriate.

The above procedures were adopted by the Committee on Aug. 19, 2006. The following procedure was adopted Sept. 23, 2006:

12. Committee meetings shall remain open, but preliminary memoranda such as e-mails between committee members shall not be released unless the Committee votes otherwise.

 

For a look at the Committee's activity in 2006, click here.