The Problem

Minnesota ’s Fair and Impartial Courts Are at Risk

Minnesotans have always held our courts in high regard. Our judges are qualified, honest and dedicate themselves to uphold the law and constitution.

In part, the fairness and impartiality of Minnesota judges came from their refusal to raise campaign contributions and seek endorsements from political parties and special interest groups. For years, judicial candidates wouldn’t even state their positions on controversial issues, out of fear that it would influence their impartiality on future cases. Minnesota kept partisan and special interest politics out of judicial races.

But in 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court concluded in the White decision that the ethical standards governing Minnesota judicial elections were unconstitutional. Candidates for judge are now allowed to make promises to and solicit campaign contributions from special interest groups and political parties.

Soon, judicial candidates in Minnesota will be using the same expensive, negative campaign techniques as some candidates for partisan offices do.

Around the Country, Judicial Elections Have Become More Expensive and More Political

In the last four elections, judicial candidates in contested races throughout the country have spent $155 million on their campaigns, and special interest groups and political parties have spent tens of millions more.

These trends demonstrate that high-priced, partisan judicial elections will inevitably reach Minnesota. And once high-priced negative campaigning hit our state, it will be difficult to change the system because of the influence of those special interests.