Big Money Floods Into North Carolina Judicial Elections

Big Money Floods Into North Carolina Judicial Elections

11:15am Oct 30, 2015
Screen capture from the cover of the latest "Bankrolling the Bench" report. (Courtesy Justice at Stake, Brennan Center, and the National Institute on Money in State Politics.)

New data compiled by a nonpartisan advocacy group ranks North Carolina second in campaign spending for judicial elections.

Among the reasons: 2014 marked the first election cycle since the state dismantled its judicial public financing system.

During that most recent election, supreme court candidates and others spent more than $6 million in pursuit of your vote. More than $2 million of that came from outside groups.

And according to Scott Greytak, the lead author of the latest edition of “Bankrolling the Bench,” judicial campaigns put judges on the hook.

“So when we make judges run for elections, what we’re essentially doing is making them beholden to the folks who can fund those campaigns.”

The new report say a lot of the contributions come from lobbyists and lawyers, the very same people who may later appear before a judge.

So how do you take the money out of a campaign?

Greytak recommends eliminating the campaign and replacing it with a merit commission.  Merit commissions, which exist in about half the country, are often appointed committees made up of citizens and legal experts who vet justices before they take the bench.

“States that choose to use merit selection are getting better results, getting more clean elections, and a corresponding higher public confidence in their institutions".

The next Supreme Court justice's term to end – that of Robert Holt Edmunds, Jr. – comes in 2016.

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