Friday, May 4, 2012

Did Marion County Slated Candidates Violate Code of Judicial Conduct by Paying $12,000 for Endorsement?; Judicial Qualifications Commission Updates Its 1992 Opinion on Paying Slating Fees

Recently I received a response to my request that the Judicial Qualifications Commission update its January 1992 opinion that found paying slating fees for a party endorsement to be a violation of Rule 4.1(A)(4) of the Code of Judicial ConductIn that 1992 opinion, the Commission found that judicial candidates, however, can make voluntary contributions to political parties.  Since that ruling the Marion County Republican and Democratic Chairmen, have exploited the loophole, claiming that the slating fees, which last election were $12,000 apiece for Republican judge candidates, were simply voluntary contributions made by the candidates. 

It should be noted that since 1992, not a single judicial candidate, Republican or Democrat, have ever been slated without paying the fee.  Former Marion County judges, once out of the system, have all said the slating fees were mandatory when they were running.

In its 2012 opinion, the Commission provided some guidance to shed light on the practice, perhaps to end the ruse of simply calling the fees "voluntary" to get around the rules.  I quote from the opinion letter:
While not an exhaustive list, some of the factors the Commission believes are important to evaluate when considering whether a payment is voluntary include the timing of the payment, particularly if it must be paid by a certain time, such as before a slating convention, whether anyone from the political party communicated to the judicial candidate that the payment is expected, and whether the amount contributed by all judicial candidates during an election cycle is the same (assuming o further explanation for the coincidence.

Let's apply those factors to the slated Marion County Republican judicial candidates to see if they violated the Code of Judicial Conduct:
  • All of the endorsed candidates paid a $12,000 slating fee
  • All paid the slating fee before the slating convention.
  • The party communicated to the candidates the amount of the slating fee before the slating convention. 
  • Judicial candidates, like candidates for other offices, were not provided a list of voters at the slating convention until the slating fee was paid.
  • The slating fee equals 10% of a judges annual salary. Slating fees always are 10% of the annual salary of the office that is sought.
  • The party, like with all slating contests, refunds 80% of the slating fee for judges if they're not slated and do not run in the primary.  If they run in the primary, the party keeps 100% of the $12,000.  If it were a voluntary political contribution, why would they ever refund the money?
The evidence is overwhelming that these "endorsed" judicial candidates are violating the Code of Judicial Conduct.  However, no attorney wants to personally turn them in for two reasons.  First, attorneys expose their current and future clients to risk by angering a significant portion of the local judiciary by filing an ethics complaint against them. Second, there are some excellent judges among those who are violating the Code of Judicial Conduct. Unfortunately they have chosen for the benefit of their career to go along with the current unethical system than challenge it.


Cato said...

They don't need to be "turned in." In the same way the Disciplinary Commission initiates its own investigation following the criminal activity of a lawyer, it can do the same thing here.

This ethical violation is abundantly published, and the Commission is more than well advised as to the grounds of an investigation that they can voluntarily commence.

The Disciplinary Commission continues to shed integrity by allowing these judges to participate in an unethical act, giving the public the clear conclusion that "justice" in Marion County courtrooms is merely whatever party bosses dictate it to be, case by case.

"Hey, Judge, want to get slated, next time? Big Donor X has a case in front of your court. Do the right thing." If the judge has any political awareness, such an overt party act isn't even necessary, as any political officeholder is well aware and appreciative of the various persons that allow him to be ensconced in his sinecure.

Slating for judicial offices, indeed, party affiliation for judicial offices must cease in order for the public to regain full respect in the probity of the bench.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Cato, I totally agree the Commission can act on its own. There is a plethora of evidence they have violated the Code of Judicial Conduct.

The candidates sitting for slating will violate the rule again 2 years from now. Can you blame them? They know the ethics rule won't be enforced and they won't get in trouble. (It hasn't been enforced in the 20 years since the 1992 opinion, after all.) They also know if they do not pay the mandatory slating fee, they won't get slated and can't win the election. The obvious choice is to pay the slating fee even though it is a violation of the ethics rule.

Gary R. Welsh said...

We can't access the document, Paul. You need to change your settings in GoogleDocs.

artfuggins said...

Paul, you are wrong on two counts.

1. Linda Brown

2. Kim Brown

M Theory said...

As a candidate for an Indiana GOP delegate I have to pay $80 dollars.

I hope they put on a good spread for the money we're spending to be delegates.

Is the GOP ripe to be taken over by principled common-sense Americans?

Lawyer said...

artfuggins, you are incorrect. Linda Brown is the only one of the Brown sisters running in this election cycle and she is a slated candidate. The first time Kim Brown ran, she did not go through slating. Will she go through slating the second time she runs? Interesting question.

artfuggins said...

No, Paul, you are incorrect. Both Brown sisters were first elected as unslated candidates. You claimed that had not happened. Yes, Linda Brown as an incumbent is slated and running this year. That was not your allegation. Your claim was that no unslated candidate had won since 1992. I gave you two examples.

Paul K. Ogden said...

What in the heck are you talking about, Art? I most certainly never said that. Linda Brown won in 2000 as an unslated candidate and in 2008 unslated Kimberly Brown won, finishing second. Z. Mae Jimison also won as an unslated candidate in the 1990s. I know extremely well the history of unslated judicial candidates. I don't know where you came up with this assertion I made about unslated candidates not winning since 1992.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Okay, I see where you're confused, Art. I was saying that no candidate has been slated since 1992 who hasn't paid the slating fee. In fact, I"m not sure any candidate has ever won slating as judge without paying the slating fee. I meant to say that it's highly unlikely a nonslated candidate can win. I did use imprecise language and that's my fault.

Irishking23 said...

I need some VOTE FOR OGDEN signs up here in Lawrence Township. How do I acquire a few?