Influence of Judicial Election Campaigns on Court Rulings
After the civil war, the Texas constitution sought to ensure the accountability of all people holding public offices including the judiciary. In order to ensure officials were responsible and accountable to the people of Texas, elections were viewed as the best method (Texas Politic 2013). Direct partisan elections were chosen as the best method to ensure regular reviewing of judges’ performance. With such elections, their stay in office was dependent on the voters who would re-elect them after a good performance. This was meant to ensure that judges served the people right in order to retain their positions. However, in order to win the elections, campaigns are necessary. Candidates have to state the policies they support, as well as their stance concerning judicial matters. Thus, it requires a lot of money to campaign and possibly win. Candidates have to get this money from sponsors and well-wishers, who have raised critical issues concerning the independence and accountability of the judiciary. With much of donations coming from law firms and other institution, the independence of the judiciary is influenced since it is likely to favor those who sponsored the campaign in their rulings and other decisions.
One of the influences of campaign contributions is on judicial independence. Unlike legislative and executive officials, the judicial officials can only campaign on policies such as being tougher on crime and ensuring justice to all. However, considering that campaigns do influence election results, such judges might have to favor their sponsors. Their independence is influenced by their dependence on voters. To gain voters, one has to impress them, which affects the individual’s rulings. For instance, judges might be more likely to listens to appeals filed by their bigger contributors than those from non-contributors (Texas Politic 2013). This also influences the rulings made by judges. When the appellate court or Supreme Court decides to hear a case, it usually seeks to reverse or affirm a ruling made by the lower court. When the big contributors’ appeals are chosen, judges might be likely to rule in their favor. Additionally, when it is during an election year, judges might make a ruling with the intention of winning voters instead of making the most justified ruling. Further, during elections the candidates receive contributions in exchange of supporting some policies that favor the contributors. Thus, campaign contributions influence the independence of the judiciary and affect its rulings.
The other influence of campaign contributors is the accountability of judges. The judges are no longer accountable to the people. Rather, they are accountable to the contributors who influence their decisions. The fact that campaigns influence the elections means that most judges have to seek contributions from sponsors in order to increase their chances of winning. Every contributor comes with his or her own interests. Thus, judges are obliged to ensure they achieve these interests. Some include acquisition, mergers, and other corporate matters that affect the daily lives of many people (Texas Politic 2013). Additionally, judges are likely to make faster convictions during a campaign year. Moreover, some cases that were unlikely to take place are heard for the sole purpose of winning voters. As such, the judge becomes accountable to the contributors instead of the people.
Clearly, campaign contributions and bipartisanship in judicial elections influence the independence and accountability of judges in decision-making. The fact that a judge’s career is dependent on the voters’ influences on their independence, he/she is likely to make decisions likely to win them votes. Further, judges are likely to favor their contributors when it comes to case hearings. With such issues, it becomes difficult for the judiciary to remain independent when their sitting in office is dependent on voters. On the other hand, accountability is influenced where campaign contributions are involved. The contributors table interests they would like to see fulfilled. Thus, the candidates’ accountability shifts from the people and justice for all to one of ensuring the fulfillment of their contributors’ wishes.
Texas Politic. Impact of Judiciary Election in Texas. texaspolitics.laits, October 2006. Web. June 27, 2013.