“Nothing breeds success like success -- Da Vinci


Judges are supposed to be the most unbiased and impartial of all legs of our government. The fairness of our system of justice requires that they make decisions based only on the facts and the law. But are they?

“Money in [judicial] elections presents us with a tremendous challenge, a tremendous problem and we are remiss if we don’t at once address it and correct it.”

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy


Source: ”The New Politics of Judicial Elections”, report by Justice at Stake


In two national surveys conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and American Viewpoint, both American voters and judges expressed deep concern about how we select judges and how it affects fair and impartial courts:

76% of voters believe that campaign contributions made to judges have an impact on their decisions.

26% of state judges also believe that
campaign contributions to judges have
an impact.

67% of voters feel that “individuals or
groups who give money to judicial
candidates often get favorable

84% of judges express concerns about
special interest groups influencing
judicial elections.


Voters and judges have the right to be concerned. In some states, nearly half of all state Supreme Court cases involve someone who has given money to one or more of the judges hearing the case. And as the above chart shows, the problem gets worse all the time, as judges receive more and more cash from campaign contributors every election.

What’s the solution? Clean Money for judges.

North Carolina Passes Clean Money for Judges

Unlike California, where judges are appointed and then reconfirmed in elections, North Carolina judges, including Supreme Court justices, run in partisan elections, as they do in a number of states. Since most of the funding for these candidates comes from attorneys and law firms appearing before the judges, there was a natural conflict of interest.

On October 10, 2002, North Carolina made a giant leap forward by enacting this country's first full public financing system for high-level judicial candidates. Similar to other Clean Money/Clean Election laws, The Judicial Campaign Reform Act gives candidates for state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals the option of running with full public financing if they raise sufficient qualifying contributions and agree to strict fund-raising and spending limits.

As Senator John McCain (R), co-author of the federal McCain-Feingold soft money campaign finance reform act said in a press conference after North Carolina’s bill passed, “The campaign finance reform crusade continues and includes an independent and fair judiciary. We’ve got to limit special interest influence over the courts.”

Judicial Action in Other States

In California, judges are appointed, rather than elected, so campaign financing isn’t an issue.

But judges are elected in a number of other states. North Carolina’s success in passing public financing has encouraged organizations in a number of other states to attempt to get public financing for judges in their states, including Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, and Wisconsin.

Judicial Links

”The New Politics of Judicial Elections”, by Justice at Stake (PDF)
How 2000 was a watershed year for big money, special interest pressure, and TV advertising in state Supreme Court campaigns

”National Surveys of American Voters and State Judges” (PDF)
By Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and American Viewpoint

N.C. Judicial Campaign Reform Passes State Legislator
Details on North Carolina Judicial Campaign Reform bill SB-1054.

Democracy North Carolina
“Fighting for justice and democracy in North Carolina”

Justice at Stake
"A National Partnership Working For Fair and Impartial Courts”

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