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Nevada justices decline to bar state judges from fundraising

The measure was one of several proposals to reform the judiciary.

December 07, 2006|Scott Gold | Times Staff Writer

CARSON CITY, NEV. — The Nevada Supreme Court has rejected a proposal to prohibit judges from personally soliciting or accepting campaign contributions.

In a hearing earlier this week, Chief Justice Robert E. Rose had called the measure a "serious proposal." But the court's seven justices ruled unanimously that the measure would impose an unconstitutional restriction on judges' right to free speech.

Most states have such restrictions on their books, and several state courts have upheld the measures.

But the justices noted that in recent years, two federal courts had found the measures to be unconstitutional. And they said that Washoe County District Judge Brent Adams, a leading voice in the reform campaign, had "not articulated a sufficient state interest to be protected" by the measure.

The decision was announced in court documents filed late Tuesday.

"The provision is still the law in virtually every state that elects judges, and we thought there was both ample legal authority and analysis to support it," Adams said.

"This would have been a simple, immediate, cost-free way to distance judges and the judiciary from money and thus enhance the independence and integrity of the judiciary. It will not be the law in Nevada. But it's still a good policy," he added.

Al DiCicco, a longtime Nevada court reform advocate who now lives in Arizona but follows the issue closely, said he was disappointed by the decision but not surprised.

"I thought it would have been a step in the right direction," he said. "But I've seen so many decisions made that were not helpful to the public. They want to perpetuate the system."

A recent Los Angeles Times investigation found the state's judiciary to be rife with problems, including judges who raised large sums from attorneys and corporations with cases pending before them.

The state Supreme Court signaled its intent this week to adopt other reform measures, including a proposal to cap the amount of money judges can keep after elections, one to allow parties in some civil cases to seek the removal of "senior judges," and one to make judges divulge when their former law clerks appear before them in court.

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scott.gold@latimes.com

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