The Champion

May 2011 , Page 5 

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Judicial Elections: Threats to the Independence Of the Judiciary at the Local and State Levels (From the President)

By Jim E. Lavine

Last August, when I was installed as NACDL’s 52nd president, it was clear that the landscape in which we practice as criminal defense lawyers had changed dramatically over the course of NACDL’s half century. During my inaugural remarks, I focused on the many challenges and opportunities NACDL faces to shape public policy and safeguard liberty.1 It is becoming increasingly clear, however, that a most pernicious and dangerous threat is the corrosive effect of judicial elections and their destructive influence on the independence of the judiciary. We see compelling evidence of this when judicial candidates are attacked, and often defeated, because of their fidelity to the core constitutional principles that are the bedrock of the criminal justice system. Although this trend is evident in some of the highly publicized state supreme court races, these attacks can be even more devastating in local judicial races. When these attacks are fueled by the money now pouring into judicial elections,

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