Ralph B. Davis
Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott and former Justice Janet Stumbo have each signed a pledge to conduct their race against each other in a dignified manner.
The pledge was crafted by the nonpartisan, nonprofit Kentucky Judicial Campaign Committee. By signing it, Scott and Stumbo have agreed “to disavow false or misleading advertising and other campaign tactics that ‘impugn the integrity of the judicial system, the integrity of a candidate, or erode public trust and confidence in the independence and impartiality of the judiciary,’” a statement from the committee says.
Scott and Stumbo are squaring off against each other in a rematch of their 2004 race. At that time, Scott defeated then-Justice Stumbo in a close race. Stumbo has since gone on to serve as judge on the Kentucky Court of Appeals.
The agreement’s preface says, “The actions of candidates for judicial office affect the integrity and independence of our judicial system, reflecting on both the Kentucky judicial system and the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Therefore, it is important that judicial election campaigns be conducted in such a way that enhances the candidate’s reputation, brings credit to the individual, and reflects the dignity and integrity of judicial office and the independence of the judiciary.”
According to the committee, many of the tactics in partisan elections are inappropriate in nonpartisan judicial campaigns and undermine the integrity of the judicial system. Kentucky’s courts rely on public confidence and support to maintain their legitimacy, and misleading campaigning destroys the basis of the judicial authority that helps hold our society together.
The committee encourages all candidates seeking judgeships to sign the pledge. This year, in addition to Scott and Stumbo, participating judges include Jim Shake and Irv Maze, who are seeking a Court of Appeals seat in Jefferson County, and circuit judge candidates Judy D. Vance of Columbia in the 29th Circuit (Adair and Casey counties) and Angela McCormick Bisig and Eric Ison in the 10th Division of the 30th Circuit (Jefferson County). In a special election for a district judgeship in Nelson County, all three candidates seeking the office signed the pledge.
Anyone who believes a judicial candidate is not campaigning appropriately may send the Committee a complaint in writing, preferably by email to Committee Chair William Fortune at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Committee discourages anonymous complaints and is much less likely to act on such complaints.