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Question of the day

Thursday, Apr 30, 2015

* LA Times

The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld state laws that bar elected judges from asking for money to support their campaigns.

In a 5-4 decision, the court rejected a free-speech claim brought by a Florida judge.

“Judges are not politicians, even when they come to the bench by way of the ballot,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority. “A state may assure its people that judges will apply the law without fear or favor — and without having personally asked anyone for money.”

The decision marks one of the few times the high court has rejected a free-speech claim involving politics and campaigning. Roberts split from the court’s four conservative justices to uphold the Florida law. […]

“Hostility to campaigning by judges entitles the people of Florida to amend their Constitution to replace judicial elections with the selection of judges by lawyers’ committees,” Scalia said. “It does not entitle the Florida Supreme Court to adopt, or this court to endorse, a rule of judicial conduct that abridges candidates’ speech in the judicial election that the Florida Constitution prescribes.”

* That’s already the case here. From the Illinois Supreme Court Rules

A [judicial] candidate shall not personally solicit or accept campaign contributions.

A candidate may establish committees of responsible persons to conduct campaigns for the candidate through media advertisements, brochures, mailings, candidate forums and other means not prohibited by law. Such committees may solicit and accept reasonable campaign contributions, manage the expenditure of funds for the candidate’s campaign and obtain public statements of support for his or her candidacy.

Such committees are not prohibited from soliciting and accepting reasonable campaign contributions and public support from lawyers.

Gov. Bruce Rauner wants to ban attorneys from contributing directly to judicial campaigns. However, he can’t stop them from forming a 501(c)(4) dark money group or even likely ban them from forming an independent expenditures committee. Attorneys could also contribute to the state parties.

* The Question: Should Illinois ban attorneys from contributing directly to judicial campaign committees? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.


survey services

- Posted by Rich Miller        

55 Comments
  1. - Chris - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 11:11 am:

    Ban *only* attorneys?


  2. - Team Sleep - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 11:12 am:

    Yes…please…for the love of God make this happen. This is the very definition of a conflict of interest. And while I understand the dark money and PAC contributions, unless SCOTUS steps into that realm as well then we may have to wait a LONG time before we cross that bridge. This would be a start.


  3. - Mama - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 11:19 am:

    ++Should Illinois ban attorneys from contributing directly to judicial campaign committees?++ I voted no because people should be free to support any campaign they want. However, there should be a clear list of who gave money to whom.


  4. - Anonymous - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 11:20 am:

    As long as judges are elected through the political process, lawyers should be able to participate in this process - and this includes donations. There are a whole lot of reasons why a lawyer would want to donate to a judicial campaign that have nothing to do with trying to influence judicial decision-making on the bench. Why would we enact a policy that reflects a greater lack of trust in our lawyers and judges than other political campaigns? I hardly believe this is justified.


  5. - walker - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 11:23 am:

    No. Most employed attorneys do not litigate in state courts.


  6. - hisgirlfriday - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 11:24 am:

    Why would you just ban attorneys?

    Their clients would still be able to donate right?


  7. - Anonymous - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 11:35 am:

    If you want independence, then businesses too appear in front of judges and some give or spend huge amounts of money for or against candidates. It is not just lawyers, so this simplistic solution will do little. (And maybe lawyers would love to be excluded so that they have an excuse to say “No” to a solicitation.


  8. - ash - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 11:36 am:

    Only if we ban corporate contributions to legislative campaigns. Similar conflicts of interest.


  9. - Amalia - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 11:36 am:

    No. what walker wrote.


  10. - perry noya - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 11:38 am:

    For just one example, Justice Anne Burke has a $174K political fund even though she ran unopposed. How could banning attorneys from direct contributions make the system any less corrupt? I voted no. As long as we elect judges, let’s not pretend we really don’t.


  11. - Tony Clifton - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 11:39 am:

    walker: what are you talkin’ about?


  12. - Anonymous - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 11:39 am:

    Also, by prohibiting campaign contributions of any kind, you are hindering the candidates that do not have the backing of political organizations. These types of candidates need to raise significant money to be able to compete with a slated candidate. Not sure this accomplishes the goal that they are setting out to acheive.


  13. - Wordslinger - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 11:40 am:

    – Judges are not politicians, even when they come to the bench by way of the ballot –

    It’s good to be the chief justice. You can say any crazy thing and issue contradictory rulings without batting an eye.

    To the question, no, unless you ban anyone who could possibly have an interest before a court ever.

    Which means everyone.


  14. - Under Further Review - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 11:42 am:

    The present system of choosing judges has its flaws. Fundraising is one of the areas that poses problems.

    One of the reforms that I have questioned is that judges (and judicial candidates) are essentially barred from politics unless they are campaigning for judge. Under the former Illinois Constitution and the applicable laws, judges were permitted to participate more fully in politics. Today, if a sitting judge is interested in another elected office which is not a part of the judiciary, the judge must resign office in order to run. In the past such figures as Governor Henry Horner, Mayors Edward Dunne and William Dever, and numerous State’s Attorneys (Crowe, Swanson, Gutknecht, etc.) were all judges prior to their election to other offices. Even US Senator Stephen Douglas was a former judge. Had the present system been in place back in the day, Illinois would have had many fewer important candidates for elected office.


  15. - Tommydanger - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 11:43 am:

    I know of at least one Judge that won election and not only refused campaign contributions from attorneys, but instructed the campaign committee to not disclose the names of any contributors to the candidate.


  16. - walker - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 11:45 am:

    TonyC: You impersonatin’ Rauner?

    Hah!


  17. - redeft - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 11:45 am:

    Lawyers are often in the best position to know the qualification of judges and whether a particular lawyer will make a good judge. While I would be happy to see a system where judges are not elected, as long as they are elected, it would be wrong to ban those with the most knowledge from contributing.


  18. - ToughGuy - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 11:48 am:

    Voted no. Include corporations and PAC’s and I’ll reconsider


  19. - Salty - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 11:57 am:

    No. When you first run for judge, a lot of your friends are attorneys who you work with and went to law school with. And only way it becomes a yes is if a judge has to recuses himself from a case if the plaintiff or defendant donated money to him (even though this would seem problematic).

    John Oliver has a great piece on electing judges if you have a spare 10 mins or so.


  20. - vibes - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 11:57 am:

    Voted no. Only if we also ban taxpayers from contributing to legislators or governors who set tax policy.


  21. - Tony Clifton - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 11:58 am:

    How the heck do most employed attorneys “not litigate in state courts?” Regardless of your position on the subject at hand, where do they litigate, the Thunderdome?


  22. - Guzzlepot - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 12:03 pm:

    @Clifton. Most lawyers do stuff like real estate closings, drafting contracts, in house counsel for a company &c. Relatively few lawyers are in front of a Judge day in and day out. You can count the number of jury trials the average lawyer does in his or her career on both hands and one foot and have two or three toes left over.

    Why should those lawyers be banned from contributing to judicial campaigns?


  23. - Peanut Butter - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 12:03 pm:

    So a corporation is a person but not an attorney? Banning donations where there is a perceived conflict of interest is a bad precedent although a ban on donations from public sector contractors might be interesting. Maybe its time that we used public financing for judicial campaigns?


  24. - Guzzlepot - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 12:09 pm:

    No. First off, if money can be political speech what right does the government have to restrict lawyer’s speech. Second, Rauner’s position is annoyingly hypocritical. He complains about the influence of one group of people and then goes out and forms an eight figure pack or two with contributions from about a dozen guys. And he doesn’t see the contradiction.


  25. - Cheswick - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 12:12 pm:

    I voted no. Lawyers are very good at self-policing — much better than say, doctors, corporations, rich people, etc.


  26. - Under Further Review - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 12:13 pm:

    I omitted to state that I voted “No.” Truthfully, apart from friend or family members, lawyers are the only ones who usually follow judicial candidates or are interested in contributing. What’s the alternative under the present system? Self-funding candidates?


  27. - D.P.Gumby - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 12:17 pm:

    It is disingenuous to prohibit attorney contributions while allowing docs, insurance companies, chamber of commerce, big business, etc. to contribute. It is a right wing anti-consumer fallacy that only lawyers contribute and that they influence judicial elections. Remember that in Caperton (the U.S.S.C. case where contributions were held to violate due process) it was the coal company business man who had contributed millions more than the total of all others in the campaign through a front organization. In Wisconsin, it has been the business/chamber money that has been traced to the demonstrably false televisions ads that elected the justice who blocked discipline against himself. So don’t buy the myth that lawyers are controlling judicial elections.


  28. - Anon. - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 12:21 pm:

    No. If you’re going to elect judges, you have to let people support the campaigns of judges they want to elect. If you don’t want attorneys giving to judges’ campaigns, don’t have judges’ campaigns. Also, as a practical matter, this just drives the money into other channels. Let everyone give, but disclose every contribution.


  29. - ZC - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 12:45 pm:

    >> Gov. Bruce Rauner wants to ban attorneys from contributing directly to judicial campaigns. However, he can’t stop them from forming a 501(c)(4) dark money group.

    I’m pretty sure he would encourage that, if the lawyers in question were in line with his policy vision.


  30. - Formerpol - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 12:46 pm:

    The plaintiffs’ personal injury trial lawyers have way too much power in Illinois. They run the bar associations, select the judges, and dominate the legislative process. Now they are even intimidating judges who rule against them by financing the judges’ non-retention. Enough. This is unethical.
    Judges in Cook County are influenced by whom they know and who contributed. Politicians try to clout various cases by appearing in court as a lawyer in cases they have had no previous involvement in .
    It happens all the time. At least take the $$ threats out of the picture.


  31. - Anonymous - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 12:49 pm:

    === where do they litigate, the Thunderdome? ===

    No, but I do think you’re on to something.


  32. - Guzzlepot - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 12:54 pm:

    @Formerpol. Judicial retention elections are almost a formality. I’ll bet more judges have been indicted in Cook County over the last three or four decades than have lost retention votes. And every lawyer knows that.

    Question, has Rauner provided any specific examples of a situation where campaign donations influenced a judicial decision? I am going to guess not.


  33. - ZC - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 12:57 pm:

    Also, Rauner can’t stop lawyers from forming a 501(c)4 dark money group, but Illinois could do more to regulate any 501c4s that want to influence local races.

    There’s plenty in the US Constitution protecting independent spending. But there’s nothing protecting these groups that want to conceal their donors. It’s just inertia and Republican obstruction on Capitol Hill. We could ban undisclosed contributions to 501c4s that influence local races if we wanted, though there is a fair objection whether if we try, “the shadow takes another shape and grows again.”


  34. - Guzzlepot - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 1:02 pm:

    Using Rauner’s logic corporations and industry groups should be banned from contributing to legislators who sit on committees that oversee their industries or their regulators. They should also be banned from contributing to elected officials whose offices do business with them. So for instance, banks couldn’t contribute to Treasurer campaigns, contractors couldn’t contribute to Township Highway Commisioners &c. If you accept his rreasoning I think you have to extend it to those areas.


  35. - been there - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 1:21 pm:

    probably yes, but then their spouses or other relatives will contribute. they’ll find a way—they’re lawyers.


  36. - Cheryl44 - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 1:41 pm:

    If they can vote, they ought to be able to donate.

    Which leaves out corporations, doesn’t it?


  37. - Left Leaner - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 1:42 pm:

    No. To your point, Rich, we’d just see lots of 501(c)(4) organizations pop up. Better to at least be able to see where/who the money is coming from. Also, as others here have pointed out, ban $$ from attorneys today, who’s next tomorrow?


  38. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 1:51 pm:

    Voted “No”

    “Why?”

    I am for 100% sunshine.

    Look it up. As long as every donor and every dollar, both, are accounted for, then not only can they give, they should give at any level, if all is reported.


  39. - JoanP - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 1:56 pm:

    1. The vast majority of attorneys NEVER appear in court.

    2. Why JUST attorneys?


  40. - Demoralized - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 1:58 pm:

    I voted yes but only on the condition that you ban contributions from every single interest group to any elected official. Of course that isn’t going to happen.


  41. - ALawGuy - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 2:28 pm:

    I voted no. If judges are going to be elected, they need to raise campaign funds. Who better knows the quality of judges, and are thus better able to decide whom to support, then lawyer? Since it is not legal for anyone to donate anonymously, unless they form one of the new “corporations are people” secret campaign committees, judges will know which lawyers donated to their campaigns. But if a judge is influenced by campaign contributions to determine how to rule, they shouldn’t be on the bench; and they likely will be federally indicted for bribery. (OK, maybe that’s wishful thinking, but we did have Greylord.)


  42. - Gary Coleman - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 2:34 pm:

    What you talkin’ bout Joan P? Who is this majority of lawyers that do not appear in court? Seriously.


  43. - Gary Coleman - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 2:36 pm:

    Also, OW has it right. Collect and disclose. Fair enough. Let the electorate decide.


  44. - DuPage - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 2:52 pm:

    =where do they litigate, the Thunderdome?=

    There are lots of lawyers who work for government agencies that don’t actually go to court. They review contracts, complaints, determine if something is or is not legal in a government contract. I know one that works for the federal government. There are a lot of laws, rulings, regulations, and codes that conflict with each other that all have to be evaluated and corrected if need be.


  45. - Arthur Andersen - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 3:07 pm:

    I voted No.

    Full disclosure is the answer here, not taking away the rights of one segment of the population.


  46. - zatoichi - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 3:12 pm:

    If you are going to ban attorney’s, why not simply ban everyone from contributing to any politician for all of the exact same influence reasons. That includes all dollars from any source. Since that will never happen I voted NO. People should be allowed to contribute to whom they wish.


  47. - Wordslinger - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 3:38 pm:

    Is it news to some that the great majority of lawyers never appear before a judge?

    How is that possible, if you have an “opinion” on the subject?

    It’s not really an opinion if it has no basis in reality.


  48. - green wants a handou - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 3:57 pm:

    Should taxpayers be banned from contributing to politicans that vote to increase or decrease taxes? Where will the stupidity end? Rauner and his rich pals can spend all the money they want to buy whatever elected offic they covet, but working people shouldn’t be able to give. What the heck is happening to Democracy?


  49. - orzo - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 4:18 pm:

    I am genuinely surprised that so many commenters do not know that most lawyers rarely, if ever, go to court. Must be the influence of TV–you don’t see shows or news stories about in-house counsel or transactional lawyers. I am also surprised that people have no problem with huge corporations giving money to candidates, but want to deny that right to one specific profession. Similarly, our governor wants to ban lawyers (and unions) from involvement in political campaigns, but thinks it’s just ducky for rich guy pacs to give millions–his transparent purpose is to put his shaft-the-working-people thumb on the scales.


  50. - walker - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 6:08 pm:

    Rauner seems to share a fault with many politicians and pundits: Repeating a policy stand that he heard somewhere, which sounds good on the surface, without checking to see what’s happening in the real world. Like the reality that most lawyers earn their livings outside of courtrooms.

    He’s made this kind of mistake repeatedly. That’s why how, and how well, Rauner is informed, is becoming an issue. We expected there to be a significant learning curve for him, and would like to see more signs of his climbing it.


  51. - Perry Masonic Temple - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 8:35 pm:

    Orzo, and Wordslinger, I have no idea what you are talking about, but I know attorneys who have been in court every single day for over a quarter of a century and lawyers who have more jury trials than appendages.


  52. - Sunshine - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 9:20 pm:

    Voted to ban.

    In fact, I personally would like to see all contributions to all political/public offices banned and funding be provided equally through a tax on weed.


  53. - Frost - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 9:24 pm:

    Rauner’s proposed blanket ban on attorney contributions to judges would be unconstitutional.


  54. - Precinct Captain - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 9:54 pm:

    We should ban people who are the stated beneficiaries of independent expenditure campaigns from donating to such campaigns.

    http://www.elections.il.gov/CampaignDisclosure/A1List.aspx?ID=577353&FiledDocID=577353&ContributionType=All%20Types&Archived=False


  55. - truthurts - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 10:52 pm:

    3M? Dow? Monsanto? These are the establishments Raunering this country. Why not prohibit these “people”?


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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