Robert H. Bork Jr. [letters, Sept. 22] draws attention to the problem of state elective judges' raising campaign contributions, but he distorts the problem by pretending that only "attorneys who represent plaintiffs" are involved.
We have 9,700 state judges on appellate courts and courts of general jurisdiction. Of the 9,700, 87 percent face elections of some type. If states choose to have judges face elections, it follows that they may have to raise campaign funds.
Last month, the American Bar Association -- which sponsors the Model Code of Judicial Conduct, adopted in most states -- amended the code to call for limiting campaign contributions and disqualifying judges from any case involving contributors who gave over-limit contributions. This first nation-wide step to address the problems inherent in judicial elections warrants support, not twisting into an attack on "trial lawyers buying justice."
ROY A. SCHOTLAND
The writer was reporter to the ABA task force whose 1998 study led to the 1999 Model Code Amendments.
Robert H. Bork Jr. addresses the problem of state and local judges who finance their election campaigns by accepting donations from prospective litigants. Although he erroneously suggests that the principal source of the problem is "attorneys who represent plaintiffs," and he fails to offer a specific solution, Mr. Bork has raised an important question, to which the most effective answer is the simplest one: States should adopt the practice of appointing judges rather than electing them.
Federal judges are appointed for life. This excludes such considerations as job security from a judge's decision-making process. In contrast, a state judge must periodically raise campaign funds (sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars; in 1996, Ohio set a ceiling of $385,000 per candidate in judicial elections). And keep in mind the need to win the votes of 51 percent of the electorate. The impartiality of a judge's work becomes open to question under such conditions.