38 Willamette L. Rev. 367 (2002)
Politicizing State Judicial Elections: A Threat to Judicial Independence

handle is hein.journals/willr38 and id is 377 raw text is: POLITICIZING STATE JUDICIAL ELECTIONS:
A THREAT TO JUDICIAL INDEPENDENCE
PAUL J. DE MUNIZ*
I. INTRODUCTION
For 143 years, Oregonians have selected the justices of the
Oregon Supreme Court by popular election.' From 1859 until
1931, judicial elections were partisan affairs between candidates
from each of the major political parties.2 However, in 1931 the
legislature mandated nonpartisan judicial elections.' With the ad-
vent of nonpartisan judicial elections, there have been relatively
few contested supreme court elections and, until the late 1990s,
those that did occur, with some notable exceptions, were fairly
mundane affairs.
In the contested races that have occurred, candidates gener-
ally have followed the judicial conduct rules that forbid them
from commenting publicly about how they would rule on cases
involving contentious social, political and legal issues of the day.'
Generally, adherence to those rules has resulted in judicial candi-
dates refusing to discuss publicly their personal views on subjects
like abortion, the death penalty, and gun rights.
However, in the decade of the 1990s, special interest groups
throughout the country realized that social, political, business,
and environmental issues decided by elected state supreme court
judges were too important to ignore. The outcome of court deci-
sions, the groups reasoned, could and should be influenced
through support for candidates who were likely to rule favorably
* Justice, Oregon Supreme Court; J.D., Willamette University College of Law,
1975; B.S., Portland State University, 1972. The author acknowledges the contributions of
Jason Montgomery, J.D. Candidate, Willamette University College of Law, 2002, in the
preparation of this Article.
1. OR. CONST. art. VII, § 3, amended by OR. CONST. art. VII, § 1.
2. See, e.g., Bar Association Proceedings, 10 OR. L. REV. 74, 90 (1930).
3. 1931 Or. Laws ch. 607, 610.
4. See generally OREGON CODE OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT JR 4-102(B) (2001).

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