This Comment argues that elections can give us good judges who are both accountable to the voters and able to decide cases impartially. To accomplish this, we must, in the words of one local media commentator, “take off the muzzle and allow judges to discuss issues.” But before one can propose change, one should understand the present system and the purposes it was designed to serve. Part II of this Comment examines Canon 7 of the Washington Code of Judicial Conduct and the balance it strikes between accountability and impartiality. Part III explores how the Canon has been interpreted in Washington case law and ethics opinions and how those interpretations have kept information about judges out of the electoral process. Part IV argues that Canon 7 should be changed because it undermines the accountability that the framers of the Washington Constitution intended to achieve through elections. Elections were so important to the framers of both the state and federal constitutions that they sought to specially protect political speech. Part V argues that the Canon contravenes the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and its corresponding state provision. Part VI examines the judicial electorate, the sources of voter information, and the expectations of voters. This Part concludes that Canon 7 should be changed because it is premised on faulty assumptions about voters. Washington is not alone in trying to balance accountability and impartiality. Part VII of this Comment demonstrates that other states have chosen canons with fewer restrictions on campaign speech and have not seen negative results. Finally, Part VIII suggests a proposal for change.
Michele Radosevich, Toward Meaningful Judicial Elections: A Case for Reform of Canon 7, 17 SEATTLE U. L. REV. 139 (1993).