Judicial Campaign Conduct Committee
Volunteer group strives to ensure IMPARTIALITY and DIGNITY in judicial campaigns
The 2012 elections will be here before you know it. Here, Linda Bowers Pierson, who chairs the Maryland Judicial Campaign Conduct Committee (MDJCCC), answers questions about the group’s role in judicial elections.
What is the MDJCCC and its primary goal?
The committee is a volunteer organization made up of a bipartisan and diverse group of Marylanders who have broad experience in law, business, politics, government service and other civic activities. Our primary goal is to ensure that the dignity and impartiality of the Judiciary remains intact during contested elections for Maryland’s circuit court judgeships. Where today’s elections for legislative and executive offices feature frankly partisan, uncivil and occasionally bare knuckles campaign tactics, MDJCCC maintains that judicial elections are inherently different. The committee is committed to maintaining respect for the uniqueness of the judicial office and aims to promote civil and dignified conduct during those elections.
What is the MDJCCC’s role during judicial campaigns?
The committee really has three roles during campaigns:
First, we reach out to every judicial candidate shortly after they file their candidacy to provide them with a handbook that contains eight voluntary Standards of Conduct established by the committee. We invite the candidate to agree to adhere to those standards by returning a signed acknowledgement form.
Second, MDJCCC maintains a complaint-driven process and makes inquiries into all complaints filed with MDJCCC about a candidate’s campaign conduct. But it is important to remember that the committee does not act unless an official complaint has been lodged against a candidate. Also, all judicial candidates are subject to MDJCCC inquiries, whether or not they sign the acknowledgment form. The committee’s decision is then made public.
Third, we consider public education as a key part of our mission during campaigns. We publish on our website the names of all candidates and indicate whether or not they have agreed to abide by MDJCCC Standards of Conduct. We also distribute a voter brochure explaining the judicial elections process. The committee seeks collaboration with any civic or community organization interested in promoting voter education with respect to judicial elections or judicial function.
What have been some of the MDJCCC’s efforts during the past election year?
In the 2010 election, MDJCCC was able to secure from 87 percent of judicial candidates a signed agreement to abide by its Standards of Conduct—the highest ever participation level since MDJCCC’s inception. The committee held inquiries into four complaints. Two of those complaints, which were combined into a single decision, focused on the committee’s first-ever investigation into a complaint regarding social media and the Internet. A typical complaint involves whether a candidate’s campaign communications are in opposition to the Standards of Conduct, including inappropriate campaign signs or false and misleading campaign literature. We have also addressed complaints dealing with the accuracy of endorsements by political leaders of judicial candidates.
More information and a printable brochure are available on the Maryland Judicial Campaign Conduct Committee’s website, www.mdjccc.org/.