Wednesday, September 5, 2007
MacLaughlin to Head Task Force on Campaign Financing
Former Presiding Judge of Superior Court Says Public Funding Could Be an Option
By a MetNews Staff Writer
California Chief Justice Ronald M. George yesterday named Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William MacLaughlin to head a task force that will look into the financing of judicial campaigns in this state.
The 14-member task force headed by MacLaughlin, the court’s immediate past presiding judge, will “evaluate and make recommendations regarding proposals to better regulate campaign financing and advertising,” the Administrative Office of the Courts explained in a release.
That mandate is broad enough to include discussion of proposals for public financing of judicial campaigns, MacLaughlin told the MetNews. He emphasized that he had not personally formed a view on that subject.
The task force is part of the Statewide Commission for Impartial Courts, also named yesterday. George, in a statement distributed by the AOC, said the commission was being formed “in response to developments in other states that have changed the tone, tenor, and cost of judicial elections.”
“The manner in which judges are selected, retained, and removed from office can have a serious impact on the independence of the judiciary. It is essential that we make every effort to avoid politicizing the judiciary so that public confidence in the quality, impartiality, and accountability of judges is protected and maintained.”
The commission has a steering committee chaired by state Supreme Court Justice Ming W. Chin. In addition to the task force headed by MacLaughlin, there are task forces on Judicial Selection and Retention; chaired by Third District Court of Appeal Justice Ronald B. Robie; Judicial Campaign Conduct, chaired by Fourth District Court of Appeal Justice Douglas Miller; and Public Information and Education, chaired by Fourth District Court of Appeal Presiding Justice Judith McConnell.
The commission is scheduled to hold an organizational meeting in San Francisco next week. Pending that meeting, there is no schedule or format as to how the task forces will proceed with their work, MacLaughlin said, but he said he expects that public meetings in other parts of the state will take place at some point.
The jurist said he accepted the post because “California has been spared in the past from the political nature of judicial elections as has occurred in many other states,” and he wants to “minimize any possibility” of similar things happening here. He noted that in many states, judicial campaigns have become “very expensive and highly political,” with infusions of money from groups with an interest in the outcome of decisions.
Fred Huebscher, a campaign consultant who works with judicial candidates, commented yesterday that public financing of judicial campaigns would be a good idea, but that incumbent judges might not support it because it would “make it easier for challengers to run a real campaign.”
Serving with MacLaughlin on the task force will be Justice Richard Aldrich of this district’s Court of Appeal; former California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson; Superior Court Judges Gail Andler of Orange County, Heather D. Morse of Santa Cruz, and Alden Danner of Santa Clara, California Association of Black Lawyers President Rozenia Cummings; court executives Denise Gordon of Sonoma County and Michael Planet of Ventura; attorneys Charles W. Kim Jr. and Thomas W. Warwick Jr. of San Diego and Angela Padilla of San Francisco; and Gerald Uelmen, executive director of the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice.
In addition, Robert Leidigh, a veteran elections attorney who now serves on the Fair Political Practices Commission, will serve as an advisory member; Deborah Goldberg, who heads the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law will serve as a consultant, and Chad Finke of the AOC will serve as the task force’s counsel.
Other local members of the commission include Superior Court Judge Peter P. Espinoza and California State University Chancellor Charles B. Reed, who will serve on the steering committee; Court of Appeal Justice Walter Croskey, attorney Roman M. Silberfeld, and Superior Court Judges Marguerite Downing, Terry Friedman, and David S. Wesley, who will serve on the Task Force on Judicial Selection and Retention; and the Constitutional Rights Foundation’s program director Marshall Croddy, attorney and former state Sen. Martha Escutia, and writer/producer Jonathan Shapiro, who will serve on the Task Force on Public Information and Education.
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company