Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Missing the Bigger Picture on the Public Reprimand of a Judge's Fundraising - Judicial Candidates Should Not Be Raising Money to Pay Slating Fees Prohibited by Code of Judicial Conduct

Judge Becky Pierson-Treacy's was admonished by the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission for a fund-raising soliciation deemed inappropriate.  The Indiana Lawyer reports:
The Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications has admonished a Marion Superior judge for mailing a questionable re-election fundraising flyer that it says put the judiciary in a negative light and implied that justice is for sale.

Judge Rebekah Pierson-Treacy received the admonishment following an August solicitation that went to 600 attorneys and judges in the Indianapolis area about a fundraiser being held on her behalf. The flyer contained suggested contribution levels – $150 to be designated as a "Sustained" contributor, $250 to be “Affirmed,” $500 to be “So Ordered” and $1,000 for a "Favorable Ruling." While those responsible for the solicitation say it was meant as a play on words, some took issue with the language and raised concerns.
Judge Pierson-Treacy is the wife of Marion County Democratic Chairman Ed Treacy.

Many of my fellow attorneys got bent out of shape over the solicitation and some have suggested the admonishment is not harsh enough.  I am in neither camp.   Judge Pierson-Treacy's soliciation was obviously a joke.  I don't think anyone who has an IQ higher higher than tap water would think the judge was selling justice.  Upon reflection was it a good idea?  No.  But public admonishment for a bad joke is more than sufficient.

What the Commission is not addressing and what is a much, much more serious ethical matter is why these funds are being raised.  Marion County judicial candidates, including Pierson-Treacy, are raising money not to run in a contested election, but to pay slating fees.  Even though slating fees are prohibited by the Indiana Judicial Code of Conduct, both the Marion County Republican and Democratic Chairmen demand judicial candidates pay the fee if they're going to be considered for slating.  They've gotten away with that by claiming, with a wink and a nod, that the slating fees are "voluntary."  Yeah, right.

Previously I wrote about this fee and reported it was about $12,000, 10% of a judge's annual salary.  I have since been informed that figure is wrong, that it is actually much higher.  According to my source, a few years ago the Republican slating fee for judge was up to $22,000 while the Marion County Democrats were charging their judicial candidates $15,000.  If anyone has an update on what they are charging judicial candidates this time around please let me know and I will make it public.

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