Washington Committee for Ethical Judicial Campaigns

Judicature, July/August 2008 | Go to article overview

Washington Committee for Ethical Judicial Campaigns


In 2006 the State of Washington joined a growing list of states subjected to expensive, bitter judicial campaigns, often fueled by huge third-party campaign contributions. Nearly $3 million was invested in campaigns for seats on the Washington Supreme Court that year and at least one race featured negative and misleading campaign ads on both sides. In an effort to promote judicial integrity, the Washington Committee for Ethical Judicial Campaigns has been formed, with retired Washington Court of Appeals Judge William Baker chairing the Committee.

The genesis of the Committee came from the coalition that created votingforjudges.com, which included the American Judicature Society, the ABA Standing Committee on Judicial Independence, The Constitution Project, Justice at Stake, the League of Women Voters, and the National Center for State Courts. The Committee is a nonpartisan, volunteer group comprising concerned citizens from the legal, judicial, media, business, and other disciplines from the State of Washington. The Committee has no relationship with the Washington Judiciary, the Washington State Bar Association, or the Washington Governor's Office.

In this first year the Committee will focus on elections to the Washington Supreme Court and the Washington Court of Appeals. The Committee will not endorse candidates; its stated goals include "offering voter information on the core responsibilities of the judiciary and the nature of the judge's function and . . . information and comment to the press and public about campaign conduct by candidates and advocacy groups."

The Committee will ask appellate court candidates to pledge to conduct campaigns promoting "public trust and confidence in the fairness and impartiality of Washington courts." The pledge is designed to commit candidates to conduct their campaigns with the highest ethical standards consistent with the dignity and integrity of judicial office. The Committee will make public each candidate's agreement or refusal to sign the pledge. The Committee will monitor campaign advertising and literature to determine whether campaign messages negatively affect the character or public perception of the courts. …

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