Legal Ethics and Campaign Contributions: The Professional Responsibility to Pay for Justice
56 Pages Posted: 30 Sep 2010 Last revised: 18 Jan 2019
Date Written: September 30, 2010
Lawyers as johns, and judges as prostitutes? Across the United States, attorneys (“johns,” as the analogy goes) are giving campaign money to judges (“prostitutes”) and then asking those judges for legal favors in the form of rulings for themselves and their clients. Despite its pervasiveness, this practice has been rarely mentioned, much less theorized, from the attorneys’ ethical point of view. With the surge of money into judicial elections (e.g., Citizens United v. FEC), and the Supreme Court’s renewed interest in protecting justice from the corrupting effects of campaign money (e.g., Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co.), these conflicting currents and others will force the practice to grow both in its pervasiveness and in its propensity to debase our commitment to actual justice and the appearance of justice. This Article takes, in essence, the first comprehensive look at whether attorneys’ campaign contributions influence judicial behavior and our confidence in the justice system (they do), whether contributions have untoward systemic effects (again, they do), and most fundamentally, whether attorneys act ethically when they contribute to judges before whom they appear (they do not, all else being equal).
Keywords: Judicial Election, Judicial Selection, Campaign Contributions, Attorney/Lawyer Contributions, Lawyer's Role, Legal Ethics, Judicial Ethics, Professional Responsibility, Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal, Citizens United
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