Nov 12, 2015 Judicial candidates- It is best not to ask lawyers if they will come to your side
Recently, a candidate for a trial judgeship called me to promote his candidacy, with my being a member of the county bar association, whose members will have an opportunity to complete a survey stating whether each candidate is highly qualified, qualified, not qualified, or not known well enough to make a qualification assessment.
This candidate asked me directly whether he can have me on his side in rating him. No other judicial candidate has ever come right out and asked me that.
He is not the first candidate to contact me, but only the third candidate for a judgeship to contact me one-on-one rather than by a mass emailing or mass mailing, on top of a fellow bar member who sought my petition signature for a candidate in another county, within earshot of that candidate during a break at a continuing legal education event.
These candidates have their free speech rights. I have the right to decline commenting to them on whether I will come to their side, and have consistently done so with all the candidates, including with the above-mentioned candidate.
I know that judges are not permitted to favor lawyers who supported their candidacy over those who did not or who opposed their candidacy. I do not think that the above-referenced candidate who sought my positive rating intended to convey that he would do otherwise; I do not know whether I can expect the same level of integrity from other judicial candidates. I can see some lawyers feeling uncomfortable by such a direct request for support, and even feeling undue pressure to commit to supporting this same person who might be ruling over their cases in the future, or is already ruling on their cases if the candidate is a sitting judge seeking to ascend to a higher position.
The judicial branch is the most undemocratic of the governmental branches. Judges wield extraordinary and immediate power, and judicial candidates, judges, and the judicial branch will look better when judicial candidates draw the line at not seeking unsolicited support other than by mass emails or mass direct mails that do not seek to know how the message’s recipient reacts.