Too much partisanship from Fischer in Ky Supreme Court race
We are a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization formed 16 years ago to protect the integrity of the judiciary in Kentucky’s judicial elections — in part in response to court decisions expanding the First Amendment freedoms of judge-candidates and the prospect of Campaigns for impartial justice elections are more like those for executive and legislative offices, which are partisan. Now we are concerned that Kentucky’s judicial election is becoming too partisan.
Judge candidates who emphasize their affiliation with a party can lead voters to view judicial elections as a party when they are not. This trend can undermine the independence and hence the integrity of the judiciary.
Our state constitution calls for non-partisan parliamentary elections. Does a bipartisan election require bipartisan campaigns? no Federal courts have ruled that fair elections should not deprive court nominees or others of the right to freedom of expression and association. But Kentucky and most other states that elect judges try to provide safeguards, such as: B. our Supreme Court ruling which states: “A judge or candidate for judicial office shall not engage in political or campaigning activities inconsistent with the independence, integrity or impartiality of the judiciary”.
The Court also says: “The role of a judge is distinct from that of a legislature or executive branch official, even when the judge is subject to public election. Election campaigns for judicial offices should be conducted differently than election campaigns for other offices.”
The touchstone of the judiciary is its independence and impartiality. Everyone in a free society should be able to expect disputes in court to be decided by an impartial tribunal unaffected by political affiliations.
It is natural for voters to want judges whose expressed views or associations (political parties or interest groups) indicate that the candidate is inclined to agree with the voter on a particular issue. But when judge candidates emphasize their affiliation with a political party, they undermine long-held American principles of judicial independence and fairness.
For this reason, we are concerned that the campaign logo on Kentucky Supreme Court Assemblyman Joe Fischer’s website includes an end line identifying him as “the conservative Republican” in the race; that a June 29 post on his campaign’s Facebook page thanked the Oldham County Republican Party for their “generous support.”
There is a comment on a July 28 Fisher Campaign post that is misleading, if not outright inaccurate. We believe that candidates are not only responsible for their social media posts, but also for any comments that remain on those posts.
Judge candidates have First Amendment rights to publicly disclose their political affiliations and public service records, but most members of our committee feel that Fischer overemphasises his party affiliation.
While he has every right to do so, we believe campaigning as a partisan candidate in a bipartisan election undermines the independence and integrity of the judiciary. Not only can this make voters believe they are voting in partisan elections, it strengthens Fischer’s ties to his party. The main goal of any political party is to gain and maintain power through the election of its candidates. The aim of a non-partisan election is to free the judiciary from such entanglements.
Considerations such as legal knowledge, life experience, fairness, the ability to listen, a willingness to shed possible prejudice and bias, patience, humility, and a firm commitment to the rule of law are far more important than party affiliation in selecting judges.
Voters have the challenge and responsibility to uphold the highest standards of judge selection. This responsibility is best met through sound and objective determinations. We must not be distracted; We have to stay on the ball.
For background information on the Kentucky Judicial Campaign Conduct Committee, see kyjccc.blogspot.com.