The era of big money in judicial elections is upon us. Between 1998 and 2000, fundraising by candidates for state supreme courts jumped 61 percent. Much of this money came from the very lawyers and parties who appear before those courts. Non-candidate spending in the 2000 supreme court races, by political parties and interest groups, reached approximately $16 million in just the four states with the most hotly contested elections.
Part of the Judicial Independence Series, this paper makes the case for public financing of judicial elections from several perspectives. First, it describes current circumstances and the need for change. Then, it describes public financing options for contested and retention elections. Finally, it makes the case that these options are constitutionally permissible and sound. This paper is an indispensable resource for anyone trying to understand, propose, support and defend a public financing system for judicial elections.