Why is judicial campaign speech treated differently from other types of campaign speech?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Judges have a special role in society: to interpret and uphold the law impartially. They are supposed to decide cases on the bases of the law and the facts of the case, not popular opinion. The impartiality of a judge or judicial candidate, it is feared, would be in question if they started making campaign promises and stating their support for or opposition to certain views. If judges or judicial candidates were to make advance commitments, the argument goes, they would be under pressure to honor those commitments if elected. This pressure could prevent a litigant from receiving a fair trial and hamper the judge’s ability to make an impartial decision. Additionally, any statement that could be taken as an advance commitment could undermine the credibility of his or her decision and, ultimately, the judicial system. To avoid this dilemma, states have put into place restrictions on what judges and judicial candidates can say during their campaigns.