University of Denver

States Take Different Paths on Public Financing of Judicial Campaigns

Former Manager, Quality Judges Initiative

Public financing of judicial elections is currently seeing a mixed reception in a handful of states. North Carolina is considering discontinuing the public financing program for appellate races that the legislature established in 2002, while in Kentucky, the house of representatives has approved a bill establishing public financing for supreme court campaigns. The West Virginia house of delegates approved a measure this week that would make permanent a 2012 pilot public financing program for high court races. In New Mexico, the legislature recently revamped the state's judicial public financing program in response to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Arizona Free Enterprise Club v. Bennett, but the governor vetoed the bill and called for the legislature to consider more comprehensive judicial election reform. Though Wisconsin strengthened its public financing program for supreme court campaigns in 2009, it was effectively ended with the governor's 2011 budget. For an April 2 Wisconsin Supreme Court contest, two candidates spent nearly $350,000 on TV ads alone.