As election season approaches, there are some forgotten candidates on the ballots — judges. Some of whom solicit campaign donations, prompting concerns about judicial partiality.
Such concerns were the impetus behind a recent study published by Morgan Hazelton, Jacob Montgomery and Brendan Nyhan, professors at Saint Louis University, Washington University in St. Louis and Dartmouth College, respectively.
The study, called "Does Public Financing Affect Judicial Behavior? Evidence From the North Carolina Supreme Court," found evidence that justices who opted into North Carolina's public financing program were relatively less favorable to attorney donors and more moderate in their voting patterns.
"We were frustrated that this question had only been studied using correlations between contributions and votes, which we didn't find to be persuasive evidence," Nyhan said. "We thought judicial contribution was an important issue of fairness and trust in the legal system, and it seemed that attorneys played a disproportionate role in judicial campaigns — because very few people know or care about the judges running for office — and then (attorneys) argue in front of them immediately after."
The analysis focuses on the effects of a North Carolina policy instituted in 2002.