Why Judicial Elections Are Idiotic

The Supreme Court weighs the dignity of judges against their First Amendment rights to raise campaign money.

But, your honor, we contributed to your re-election campaign.

Photographer: Walter Michot/Miami Herald/MCT via Getty Images

Judicial elections are idiotic -- but 38 states have them in some form. The U.S. Supreme Court grappled yesterday with the contradiction inherent in using the electoral process to select public officials whose primary obligation is to be impartial. The precise question was whether a Florida rule that prohibits candidates for judicial office from personally soliciting campaign money violates the First Amendment. But the justices were really confronting was what to do about the strange phenomenon of judicial elections, a problem that goes to the essence of how the justices understand their own role. Unfortunately, their sense of judicial self runs headlong into their conception of the First Amendment.

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