With almost entire state’s judiciary on 2014 ballot, Kentucky judicial campaign public financing bill up for discussion

Back in December before the session started, I noted a Kentucky bill (HB 21) that would have established a clean judicial elections fund for use in races for the state’s  Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Circuit Court, or  District Court. The bill would have permitted the Supreme Court to require members of the Kentucky Bar Association to submit an annual fixed amount not to exceed $25 to be dedicated to the clean judicial elections fund. It went into the House Elections, Constitutional Amendments & Intergovernmental Affairs Committee and went no further.

One of the two main sponsors, Jim Wayne, will be discussing the bill with  a local chapter of the League of Women Voters on April 25 (h/t Gavel Grab). Along with him will be Jefferson Circuit Judge Fred Cowan, former state attorney general and also a former state representative.

2014 is going to be a critical year for judicial elections in the state. The state’s supreme court serves staggered 8 year terms. As a result,under normal conditions the Supreme Court cannot be overturned in a single judicial election. However, this is not a sure-thing; due to vacancies, 5 of the 7 justices were up in 2006.

While such a (potential) overturning of the state’s supreme court in 2006 was an accident of timing, the same potential exists in the lower courts by design. Because of a lack of staggered terms, in 2014, all 14 Court of Appeals, 146 Circuit Court, and 116 District Court judges will be on the ballot.

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