first_img Miami forum discusses public funding of judicial campaigns Miami forum discusses public funding of judicial campaigns May 15, 2002 Regular Newscenter_img The idea of public financing of judicial campaigns is gaining momentum nationwide as well as in Florida, according to Edith Osman of Miami, a former president of The Florida Bar and a member of the ABA Standing Committee on Judicial Independence.“It is incumbent on the legal profession to find ways to better the current system of judicial selection,” Osman said. “Although Florida voters last year rejected merit retention for trial judges, a great many people think the time is ripe to re-evaluate judicial selection because so many people are uncomfortable with current methods of financing judicial campaigns.”Two leaders of the ABA’s effort to enhance judicial independence, D. Dudley Oldham of Houston and Edward Madeira, Jr., of Philadelphia, met with Florida and Dade bar leaders recently to discuss judicial qualifications and public financing of judicial campaigns.“The American Bar Association is providing a variety of solutions to problems that plague judicial selection and threaten the independence of the judiciary,” said Oldham, chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Judicial Independence.“Public financing of judicial campaigns is another option recently recommended by the ABA. It is important to remember that regardless of the selection method used in individual states, Americans want fair and impartial judges. Respect for the rule of law is what sets our country apart and makes our system of government an example for all.”He said that North Carolina, Wisconsin, Texas, and several other states are giving serious consideration to public financing proposals.Miami bar leaders, even those on opposite sides of the merit selection issue when it appeared on the ballot in the November 2000 election, expressed support for public financing of judicial campaigns. They said judges should be removed from a process that requires them to raise large amounts of campaign money, and one proponent said public financing of judicial campaigns in Dade County would cost only $1.5 million, according to Oldham.Stephen Zack, a Miami lawyer who serves as chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Bar Activities and Services, told the gathering that it would be “fabulous” if public financing could be enacted for $1.5 million, but he said perhaps the cost would be higher.Proponents said they hoped Florida legislators would approve a “local option” on public financing allowing each county to decide whether to finance judicial campaigns with public money.Madeira, chair of the ABA Commission on State Judicial Selection Standards, said people across America are concerned about the qualifications of judges, and that proposed judicial eligibility panel could evaluate judicial candidates’ qualifications.“The standards adopted by the ABA are intended to be consistent with merit-based selection of judges, and in states such as Florida, where the voters have chosen to continue electing trial court judges, the standards can be used as a basis to improve public confidence that qualified judges are being elected,” Madeira said.last_img