As the song goes:
You’ve got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
And latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between
When it comes to judicial elections, keeping politics out is accentuating the positive. That helps assure that the best candidates – most likely to really make decisions based on the merits – are elected. And it fosters public trust – that decisions are being made based on the law and not on political pressure.
In Hennepin County, that means signing the Hennepin County Bar Association’s Affirmation of Judicial Candidate Conduct, and adhering to it.
The Hennepin County Bar Association asks all judicial candidates to sign an affirmation pledging that they will adhere to high standards in running their campaigns. One of the key provisions requires candidates to pledge that they will refrain from political activities in running their campaigns. Here’s what that provision says:
I agree that I will not identify myself or my opponent as a member of a political organization, except as necessary to vote in an election, and will not attend political organization gatherings or seek or use endorsements from any political party. I understand that I may speak to gatherings other than political organization gatherings on my own behalf.
A couple of the candidates in Hennepin County contested races did not sign the affirmation at all: Chris Ritts and Bruce+ Rivers. Two of the candidates – Beverly Aho and Amy Dawson – signed it but noted their own key exceptions from it.
At least five of the candidates attended a DFL gathering on September 17. This would seem to violate the affirmation, which says in black and white, “I agree that I . . . will not attend political organization gatherings . . . .”
Minnesota Lawyer asked the candidates why they were not able to sign the affirmation as it is written. And why they attended the DFL meeting. See the article here.
Politicization – it is a slippery slope. As attorneys, we have to fight to keep politics out of judicial elections. The affirmation is a modest request made of judicial candidates.
All candidates who do not sign the affirmation or who can’t sign it without reservations should be evaluated closely. Candidates who sign the affirmation but then don’t comply with it should be examined closely. And should be questioned about their ability to make decisions on a non-partisan basis.