crime victims. Bruce Hight, Lawyer Says Rule Violates Judicial Candidates Rights, Austin American-Statesman, January 30, 2002.
Column applauds the fact that this year’s Texas judicial candidates have all either returned or refused contributions from Enron but observes: “It’s easy to spurn the check from a company that has become persona non grata. . . . What I’d really like to know is when the justices and other judicial candidates plan to forsake money from the Texas Medical Association . . . , from the Bass family,” law firms, and other groups likely to appear before them. Merit selection, the columnist argues, offers the surest chance of preserving judicial integrity. Although it would not eliminate the political element in judicial selection, merit selection would put an end to the influence of money: “Judicial selection in Texas needs a clean slate, and flushing out the Enron money falls woefully short of providing it.” Linda Campbell, Clean Courts: A Small Start, Fort Worth Star- Telegram, January 31, 2002.
Editorial hails the Georgia legislature’s creation of a joint committee to determine whether the state’s judicial elections ought to be publicly financed: “The framers of the state Constitution never intended judicial decisions to be affected . . . by campaign contributions.” The average appellate court campaign costs nearly $200,000, a sum that, according to the editorial, “has caused many experienced lawyers who would make fine judges to shy away from the job.” By implementing public financing, Georgia can protect itself from the scandals that have plagued Alabama and Texas. Furthermore, since lawyers are often reluctant to lose favor with incumbent judges by contributing to challengers’ campaigns, public financing would widen the slate of candidates for voters. Use Public Financing for Judicial Elections, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, February 3, 2002.
59. Editorial contends that Enron’s “contributions to seven members of the Texas Supreme Court highlight a serious flaw in state jurisprudence.” Since 1993, the company has contributed $100,000 to the state’s justices. Recently, attention has focused on the company’s $8,600 contribution to Justice Priscilla Owen, who has been nominated by President Bush to the Fifth Circuit, and who wrote a majority decision benefiting Enron financially shortly after receiving the contribution. (See Court Pester, January 22, 31.) The editorial defends Justice Owen from charges of corruption, noting that the decision was unanimous, and adds that “focusing on Owen for political reasons misses the point.” Although it is difficult, in the editorial’s view, to prove that campaign contributions influence judicial decisions, “[t]here is no way to avoid criticism and suspicion under the existing system.” It concludes that either merit selection or Chief Justice Tom Phillips’ proposal for public financing of judicial elections would guard state judges from doubts about their integrity. Electing Judges Opens Door for Ethics Questions, Austin American-Statesman, February 4, 2002.