Editorial calls on the Supreme Court to uphold Minnesota’s restrictions on judicial candidate speech in Republican Party of Minnesota v. Kelly. Looking at judicial elections in its own state, Texas, the editorial “share[s] voters’ frustration at a candidate’s polite refusal to say more than to cite their legal experience and promise to be impartial.” It asserts that Texas judicial candidates, either “out of conviction . . . or out of fear of reprimand by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct,” interpret the state’s regulation of candidate speech to prevent even discussion of their judicial philosophies. On the other hand, were judicial candidates to speak more freely, they would be incapable of following their duties once elected. The judiciary must “remain above the daily political fray, and it can’t do that if judicial candidates find themselves constantly pushed to come out in favor of this or against that on a campaign stump.” Candidates’ Opinions Should Wait for Bench, Austin American-Statesman, March 25, 2002.
Column hails a new study by the National Institute on Money in State Politics as proof that judicial elections need no reform. The study analyzed campaign contributions to Michigan Supreme Court campaigns during the 1990s and found no relationship between contributions and decisions. 94% of donors did not appear before the court, and those who did enjoyed the same odds of victory as non-contributors. Given the significance of the study’s findings, the columnist ponders the lack of media attention. In contrast, a Texans for Public Justice (TPJ) report, finding that campaign contributors were more likely to have to have their cases heard, received widespread coverage. Yet, according to the columnist, the Institute’s report “appears to be the most rigorous undertaken on the subject” while the TPJ report was purportedly debunked by the trade publication, Texas Lawyer. One explanation is “media bias. . . . [T]he mainstream media have provided most of the cheerleading for campaign-finance reform.” Another is that “[j]udges aren’t supposed to be biased. So when it’s demonstrated that they’re not, it’s possible that media decision-makers view the news as unremarkable.” Dawson Bell, Good News About Judicial Fairness Gets Overlooked, Detroit Free- Press, March 25, 2002.
65. Column assesses the reasons why Texas Supreme Court Justice Xavier Rodriguez lost his bid for the GOP nomination. Despite endorsements from Republican leaders, a $700,000 campaign fund, and the state’s major newspapers, Rodriguez lost to “a little-known lawyer with the name of an Anglo Everyman -- Steven Wayne Smith.” Terry McAuliffe, Chair of the Democratic National Committee, touts the defeat as proof that the Republican party is unfriendly to minorities, pointing out that Smith was the plaintiffs’ attorney in the recent Hopwood case, ending affirmative action in Texas’ universities. Justice Rodriguez disagrees that his ethnicity played a role. Instead, he attributes his loss to the unusualness of his name, noting that a respected judge, Lee Yeakel, lost his bid for the chief judge position on his appellate court to a challenger attorney named Ken Law. (See Court Pester, March 27.) Richard Murray, Professor of Political Science at the