Statement of Purpose
MDJCCC’S purpose is to promote civil and dignified conduct in judicial elections. At the root of the Committee’s concern is maintaining the dignity of judicial office and both the fact and appearance of judicial impartiality to which every litigant has a right guaranteed by the Due Process clause of the Constitution.
MDJCCC’s credo is simple. Judicial elections are different.
Unlike contests for legislative and executive office, in which candidates are expected, even obligated, to announce their views on current political and social issues and to commit to furthering them if elected, judges should have no such agenda. Judges are servants of the law as it is, not as others, even they, might wish it to be. The trial judge’s obligation is to resolve disputes based solely on the law and the facts developed in his or her courtroom. Impartiality — and the appearance of impartiality— are the watchwords of the judicial function. “Justice,” as the Supreme Court reminded us over fifty years ago, “must satisfy the appearance of justice.” Offut v. United States, 358 U.S. 11, 14 (1954). If the public’s constitutional right to an impartial judiciary is to be preserved, therefore, it is essential that contested judicial elections and the inevitable debates among judicial candidates do not impair — and are not perceived as impairing —the ability of those candidates to decide controversies that come before them as judges without bias, prejudice or predisposition.
The frankly partisan, occasionally bare knuckles, conduct that we have come to tolerate in campaigns for legislative and executive office are inconsistent with the dignity we rightly count on in those who hold judicial office. The exaggerated rhetoric often employed in contemporary discussions of political issues, when used in the context of judicial elections, is corrosive of the public’s perception of the integrity of the court system. Such campaign tactics damage the integrity of the judiciary — regardless of whether the communication falls within the ambit of constitutionally protected speech.
Maintaining the dignity of the judiciary is necessary to protect the rule of law — a root principle of our social compact and the one sure standard upon which this diverse and frequently fractious nation believes it can rely. The rule of law promises justice, neutrality and fairness. It does not exaggerate to say that the concept has an iconic status and that faith in the rule of law is akin to a civil religion. Judges are symbols of the rule of law. Therefore, those who aspire to judicial office have a special responsibility — a duty in fact– to conduct themselves in their campaigns with a dignity that reflects and honors the public’s reverence for the unique office they seek.
P.O. Box 10427 Baltimore, Maryland 21209