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Policy Brief

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Democratic Institutions

Justice for Hire: Improving Judicial Selection

As modern campaign techniques increase the costs of judicial elections, sitting judges and judicial candidates are soliciting contributions in larger amounts than they did a decade ago. Consequently, significant portions of the American electorate believe that campaign donors and political supporters are buying the influence of the nation's judges. These developments prompted CED's Trustees to examine the process of judicial selection and to propose systemic reform. CED believes that an erosion of public trust and confidence in the impartiality and fairness of judicial outcomes threatens the future legitimacy of the legal system.

On August 9, 2002 CED released Justice for Hire: Improving Judicial Selection at a Washington, D.C. event featuring Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Phillips as the keynote speaker and remarks by A. P. Carlton, President of the American Bar Association. The project is co-chaired by Derek Bok, President Emeritus of Harvard University and Chairman of Common Cause, and Roderick M. Hills, Chairman of Hills Enterprises, Ltd.

The report contends that the system for electing state and local judges undermines judicial independence and impartiality and jeopardizes public confidence in our state courts. Elections encourage judges to engage in political activities that do not befit the office and provide outside interests with substantial opportunities to politicize judicial decisions and influence judicial behavior.

CED is partnering with the American Bar Association and other organizations to form "Justice at Stake" to address this issue. CED's project and Justice at Stake are funded in part by George Soros' Open Society Institute and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

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