Brennan Center Urges 4th Circuit to Uphold Public Financing System for Statewide Judicial Elections
For Immediate Release: Friday, December 7, 2007
Contact: Jonathan Rosen, BerlinRosen Public Affairs (646) 452-5637
Brennan Center Urges 4th Circuit to Uphold America's First Full Public Campaign Finance System for Statewide Judicial Elections
Groundbreaking North Carolina Campaign Finance Law Would Take Special Interests Out of Judicial Selection
Richmond - In a case with national implications for the election of judges, the United States Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit today considered the fate of North Carolina's public campaign finance system for statewide judicial elections. Enacted
in 2002, North Carolina's program was the first full public campaign
finance system for statewide judicial elections in the nation. This year, New Mexico also enacted a full public financing system for candidates for its Court of Appeals and Supreme Court.
on behalf of North Carolina Common Cause and Ronnie Ansley, a trial
attorney from Wake Forest who ran unsuccessfully for the North Carolina
Supreme Court in 2004, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of
Law urged the court to uphold the October decision by Judge W. Earl
Britt of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North
Carolina dismissing a challenge to the law for failure to state a
The October ruling spurred efforts
to enact similar proposals in other states and the outcome of today's
proceedings will be closely watched by legislatures across the country.
In addition to the creation of a full public financing
program in New Mexico earlier this year, state legislatures in
Illinois, Montana and Wisconsin are currently considering full or
partial public financing of appellate court elections in their states.
Washington State also considered a similar proposal this year.
the country trial lawyers, big business and other special interests are
spending big money to elect their favored candidates to some of our
state's highest courts. As a result, we see increasing evidence that
voters are losing faith in the notion that justice is really blind,"
said Deborah Goldberg, Director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan
Center for Justice.
"North Carolina's system is a model for any
state seeking to rein in out-of-control judicial campaigns. We hope
that the 4th Circuit will uphold Judge Britt's ruling and help improve
the integrity of judicial elections in North Carolina and across the
country," continued Goldberg.
In 2002, North Carolina enacted
a voluntary full public financing program for candidates running for
seats on the North Carolina Supreme Court and the North Carolina Court
of Appeals. Under the program, known as the North Carolina Public
Campaign Financing Fund, candidates for appellate courts who collect
qualifying contributions in amounts ranging from $10 - $500 from at
least 350 registered voters receive public funds for their campaign.
The program is funded with annual $50 contributions from active members
of the North Carolina State Bar and an optional $3 check-off on state
income tax returns.
In 2004, 12 of 16 candidates for the
North Carolina Supreme Court and the North Carolina Court of Appeals
(including four of the five winners) opted into the public financing
system - forgoing private campaign money beyond their initial
qualifying contributions. According to an analysis by the North
Carolina State Court system, public funds made up 64% of the financing
in those races. In 2006, eight of 12 candidates took part in the Public
Campaign Fund, with five of six winners participating in the program.
Four plaintiffs, including two judges - Barbara Jackson, a sitting
judge on the North Carolina Court of Appeals and Wilton R. "Rusty"
Duke, a North Carolina Superior Court judge who ran unsuccessfully for
the Supreme Court in 2006 - and the North Carolina Right to Life
Committee Fund for Independent Political Expenditures ("IEPAC"), and
North Carolina Right to Life State Political Action Committee ("SPAC")
sued to strike down the law. The plaintiffs challenged the law's
disclosure requirements, the source of funds for the public financing
program, a rule prohibiting any contributions in the 21 days proceeding
an election, as well as a provision in the law granting participants in
the public financing system extra campaign funds to counter spending by
a candidate not participating in the program or an organization engaged
in an independent expenditure campaign against the participating
candidate or on behalf of their opponent.
In addition to its
work in North Carolina, the Brennan Center has successfully defended
state public financing laws Maine and is currently defending public
campaign finance programs in Connecticut and Arizona.
To read the appellant's brief challenging the law click here.
To read the October 2006 decision of the District Court click here.