Justice J. William Graves’ withdrawal from the Kentucky Supreme Court race is yet another sad consequence of our insistence on electing our judiciary rather than appointing judges. While I wholeheartedly agree with today’s Courier Journal editorial comments which foresee a disservice and decline for the cause of justice, it overlooked the issue of attorney contributions to judicial races. While contributions by lawyers to the campaigns of judges before whom they practice have no disciplinary consequences, they certainly can undermine the public confidence in our judicial system. We often speak of avoiding appearances of impropriety, yet I can think of few matters which would appear more improper to a litigant than to note on the web pages of the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance the fact that the lawyer for his opposing party has contributed heavily to the campaign of the judge before whom he must appear.
Over the last two decades, from time to time, we have debated in depth the best ways to obtain and maintain an objective and impartial judiciary. I cannot say that I ever witnessed favoritism to an opposing lawyer who contributed generously to a judicial campaign. Nevertheless, the public perception is tarnished by such practices. In addition to addressing the concerns mentioned in the Courier Journal editorial of negative advertising, special interest groups funding and exploiting controversial issues, and aggressive fund raising, I think it is time we revisit appointing our judges rather than subjecting them to the elective process.