07/15/2008: "Candidates For Judge Sign Pledge"
The Washington Committee for Ethical Judicial Campaigns (Committee) has announced that 14 of 15 candidates for the state Supreme Court and Courts of Appeals have signed a pledge to conduct their campaigns with integrity and in a manner that promotes the election of an independent judiciary.
San Juan County Judge John O. Linde announced that. “To make it clear where I stand and reaffirm my commitment to fair and ethical conduct in the non-partisan campaign to elect our Superior Court Judge, I am joining many appellate court judicial candidates in taking the Washington Committee for Ethical Judicial Campaigns Candidate’s Pledge.”
The Linde campaign has expressed concern about “A recent letter in the Sounder and damage to campaign signs indicates an unfortunate turn in the campaign for Superior Court Judge.” In a press release, Judge Linde said “Neither I nor any member of my committee will impugn the dignity, integrity or independence of my opponent.”
Judge Linde is being challenged for the judgeship by attorney Randy Gaylord , SJC Prosecutor, but as of Monday (7-14-08) Gaylord had yet to sign the pledge, stating “I do not see any objections to the pledge, but I would like to know more about the committee,” and later added "The pledge reflects my values for the judicial system. If asked, I would sign it."
The Committee, a non-partisan group of lawyers, retired judges, and other citizens from the state of Washington, was formed to promote the preservation of public trust and confidence in the judiciary by encouraging fair and ethical campaigns for positions on the State Supreme Court and the Courts of Appeal.
In June 2008 the Committee asked all candidates for the Supreme Court and intermediate appellate courts to pledge to conduct their campaigns in a fair and impartial manner, to publicly disavow advertising that impugns the dignity or integrity of a candidate, and to refrain from making false or misleading statements regarding pending court cases.
“We are extremely pleased by this response,” said Judge William Baker, chair of the Committee. "We believe the near-unanimous participation by the candidates indicates a strong belief in the integrity of the judiciary and their commitment to conduct campaigns that underscore ethical standards appropriate to judicial office."
“It is important for the public to understand that judicial elections are fundamentally different from other elected offices”, said Judge Baker. The ethical rules governing judges prevent candidates for judicial positions from making campaign promises or committing to decide cases in a certain way.
Judicial candidates are also not allowed to coordinate efforts by their supporters to promote causes, nor to decide cases to support a political agenda after they are elected. These are fundamental differences from elections for partisan offices, such as legislators or governor.
“Unfortunately, in some instances, judicial campaigns are beginning to look more like highly politicized campaigns for partisan political offices. Many judicial candidates are required to raise large amounts of money to pay for ads communicating their qualifications to the voters.
In some instances special interest money is spent on ads attacking judicial candidates in a manner that can be misleading, demeaning, or simply false. As a result the public is either left with insufficient information to reasonably determine which judicial candidate they should vote for, or worse, with misleading information”, said Judge Baker.
“When judicial campaigns run this course there is a substantial threat to judicial independence and impartiality. Even if the judicial candidates are able to maintain their integrity, public trust can be undermined by the appearance of unfairness.”
Voters who would like more information about campaigns for the courts may visit www.votingforjudges.org. For inquiries about the 2008 Washington Committee for Ethical Judicial Campaigns, or to file a complaint, contact via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. or contact the Chair, Judge William Baker, by writing in care of Foster Pepper PLLC, 1111 Third Avenue, Suite 3400, Seattle, WA 98101-3299, or at 206-940-2291.