Kentucky Judicial Campaign Conduct Committee
West Main Street, Louisville KY 40202
Spencer Noe, Chair and President -- -- --
Anthony Wilhoit, Vice Chair and Vice President
Press Release: Some elections are about more than Democrats and Republicans
Candidates Sign Pledge on Campaign Conduct
Rules for Complaints & Investigation Requests
elections are about more than
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 (For a map of circuits, click
(For a map of districts, click
a list of candidates in all races, click
For a look at the Committee's activity in 2006, click here.