Big money threatens court

Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Wednesday, April 26, 2006

As the Seattle P-I has reported, a big money political action committee has been formed to elect to the Washington Supreme Court and state Court of Appeals judicial candidates seemingly committed to their political agenda ("Spending cap may backfire," March 23).
As former justices of the Washington Supreme Court, we are gravely concerned about this ominous development that threatens the independence of the judiciary, the cornerstone of our separation-of-powers doctrine. The judicial oath of office commits a judge to faithfully and impartially perform the duties of office. The requirement of impartial performance is unique. It is necessary in reality and appearance, if the public is to maintain faith in our courts. And it is here that this misguided effort by powerful interests is so dangerous.
Judges cannot be or appear to be beholden to those who raise the most money in support of their candidacy. To extend the political lobbying culture, so prevalent in Washington, D.C., to our judicial elections is destructive of public faith in impartial justice. Those big-money interests with a decided political agenda must learn to respect the very institutions they seek to politicize.

We are not alone in expressing this concern. The American Judicature Society, both on a local and national level, has come out strongly against the politicization of judicial elections. Consumer organizations such as Public Citizen and the Center for Justice and Democracy have exposed the way powerful interests have improperly sought to exert predominant influence in state judicial elections.
Retired Washington Supreme Court Justice Robert Utter is a past national chairman of the American Judicature Society. Retired Washington Supreme Court Justice Faith Ireland is a past president of the Washington chapter of the American Judicature Society.


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