President Alfred P. Carlton said, “Millions of dollars are being spent to ‘control’ courts in some states much the same way political parties control legislative and executive branches of government.” Wootton, however, argues that, even if campaigns and ads are “bruising and tough,” “you really have to let the public evaluate the candidates based on the information they’re given.” Kent Hoover, Judicial Campaign Contributions Stir Debate About Price of Justice, Houston Business Journal, August 16, 2002.
Article reports that the Texas Supreme Court has issued a new code of ethics for judges, lifting rules on campaign speech that conflicted with a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Republican Party of Minnesota v. White. The new rules prohibit public comment on pending or impending proceedings in a manner that would indicate a probable decision in the case. The new rules also warn that any campaign communication that compromises a judge’s impartiality in a case will be grounds for recusal. Meanwhile, at a news conference held at the Capitol, the watchdog group Campaigns for People announced that most of the major party candidates for the Texas Supreme Court have pledged to avoid making campaign statements that indicate an opinion on any issue that may come before the court. But two candidates, Republican Steve Smith and Democrat Richard Baker both refused. Associated Press, Court Issues Rules Ethics Rules for Judges and Candidates, Abilene Reporter-News (Abilene, Texas), August 23, 2002.
Article reports that, despite Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Phillips’ “pledge to reject campaign contributions, ten other candidates for the Texas Supreme Court raked in nearly $3 million in donations during the recent election cycle,” according to a report by Texans for Public Justice, “a nonpartisan research group.” Republican candidates enjoy a 3-1 fundraising advantage over Democratic candidates at this point. Craig McDonald, director of Texans for Public Justice, said that “law firms and the so-called tort reformers continue to be the top high-court donors. It’s business as usual.” Because of resignations and retirements, “the Texas Supreme Court is undergoing its greatest transition in more than a decade, with five of nine seats … up for grabs.” Max B. Baker, Report: Justice Candidates Raise About $3 Million, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, August 28, 2002.
86. Column reports that, in Texas, “statewide judicial races are likely to get lost in the smoke of a nasty gubernatorial campaign this year,” particularly since “judicial candidates are not expected to raise enough money to get on TV.” Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Phillips, who is not raising money for his reelection bid, said that a changing political landscape could encourage the Legislature to enact judicial reform such as a merit system of judicial selection. “When party leaders feel secure about keeping judicial offices, they tend to oppose reforms,” the columnist argues. However, the columnist note that “a new poll financed by Campaigns for People shows that 59 percent of Texas voters oppose appointing