Summary of activities
Kentucky Judicial Campaign Conduct Committee
The Kentucky Judicial Campaign Conduct Committee was formed because judges, lawyers and citizens had become concerned that recent court decisions would cause judicial elections to become too much like executive and legislative elections, eroding the independence, image and integrity of the judiciary. The committee resolved to:
- Educate citizens about the nature of judicial offices and elections;
- Encourage judicial candidates to run dignified campaigns and avoid making specific promises about how they might rule on any matter in order to get votes;
- Monitor judicial races, consider complaints of unethical campaigning and make public statements when warranted.
The committee educates the public through printed brochures, a website, articles in newspapers and legal journals, broadcast interviews and press releases about its activities.
Each year when judicial elections are held, the committee encourages candidates to sign a pledge “to disavow false or misleading advertising and other campaign tactics that “impugn the integrity of the judicial system, the integrity of a candidate, or erode public trust and confidence in the independence and impartiality of the judiciary.” The committee then publicizes which candidates have signed the pledge, and, if it issues a statement criticizing a candidate who has signed the pledge, that is noted.
The committee attempts to persuade candidates to campaign in a fair and dignified manner, specifically to refrain from "attack ads" that misrepresent an opponent's record or are personally demeaning. The committee believes that such ads undermine the public's trust in the integrity of the judiciary.
The committee holds held regional meetings for candidates, and advises them that responses to interest-group questionnaires might be interpreted as commitments to rule in a certain way. The committee responds to inquiries from candidates who have questions that relate to our procedures, policies and past statements of opinion.
The committee has considered approximately 20 complaints involving races at every level of the state judiciary and has issued public statements when it has concluded that campaigning by a candidate deserves public criticism.
In some cases the committee has sent its findings only to the candidates involved, some of whom have used the findings in advertising. The committee asks candidates to correct misstatements in campaign materials, and issues a public statement if the misrepresentation is not corrected.
In a few cases, the committee has investigated a matter that was not the subject of a formal complaint. In one case it investigated a public allegation made by a supporter of a candidate against her opponent, and issued a statement saying the available evidence showed the allegation was not true.
In 2010, the committee issued a statement responding to a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit that judicial candidates may personally solicit campaign funds, announce their party affiliation and receive political party endorsements. The committee said it was concerned that the ruling on contributions may undermine the integrity of judicial elections and thus damage public regard for the judiciary. It also reiterated that judicial candidates should not make statements about issues that might come before them.
The Kentucky Judicial Campaign Conduct Committee is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan group of interested citizens from all over Kentucky. It has made an effort to include people from various walks of life and political viewpoints, including civic leaders, attorneys, non-lawyers and retired judges. The committee’s bylaws require that no fewer than 30 percent nor more than 60 percent of the members be practicing members of the Kentucky bar.
For the committee membership, click here.