A Judge on the Hustings

A former Alabama Chief Justice, Sue Bell Cobb, provides a striking first-person account of judicial election campaigning in a Politico piece headlined “When big money met the courts.”  In it, she describes the process of politicking and the “awkward and uncomfortable” fundraising that have become requirements for candidates in judicial-election states. “How do we convince Americans that justice isn’t for sale, when in 39 states, it is?” she asks.

Cobb has been an outspoken critic of money and politics in judicial selection since leaving the Alabama court in 2011.  She writes that in her experience as a candidate, “to run for judge means pitching yourself to the public just as if you were running for dogcatcher.”

Her observations come as the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to rule on the constitutionality of state bans on personal campaign solicitation by judges and judicial candidates, in Williams-Yulee v. The Florida Bar.  A ruling in favor of such bans could mean judges would be prohibited from making the kind of personal donation requests Cobb writes about.  For a brief summary of what’s at stake in the Yulee case, watch this short video with Justice at Stake’s Scott Greytak.