Judging Judicial Elections

Michael S. Kang* & Joanna M. Shepherd**

Melinda Gann Hall’s new book Attacking Judges: How Campaign Advertising Influences State Supreme Court Elections suggests what seems impossible to many of us—a powerful defense of today’s partisan judicial elections. As judicial races hit new levels of campaign spending and television advertising, there has been a flood of criticism about the increasing partisanship, negativity, and role of money. In view of the “corrosive effect of money on judicial election campaigns” and “attack advertising,” the American Bar Association (ABA) recommends against judicial elections, which are currently used to select roughly 90 percent of state judges. Justice O’Connor, who has championed judicial-election reform since her retirement from the Supreme Court, warns that “there are many who think of judges as politicians in robes” and agrees “[i]n many states, that’s what they are.” Melinda Gann Hall, a political scientist and authority on judicial behavior, sets out in her book to challenge some of these claims.

* Professor of Law, Emory University School of Law. We appreciate helpful comments from participants in faculty colloquia at the University of Virginia School of Law and University of Toronto Faculty of Law. Many thanks for project-manager assistance from Christina Glon and research assistance from Matthew Chamberlain, Joshua Clark, Gillian Fishman, Jordan Hansbrough, Edward Howden, Erin Kane, Alex Karam, Stella Lee, Daniel Lim, Xuemeng Ma, Brenda McGhee, Sarah Owens, Tyrssa Philpot, and Ravi Raj.
** Professor of Law, Emory University School of Law.

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