IBA: PAC Approved as Alternative for Judicial Campaign Contributions

In Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co, the U.S. Supreme Court addressed the issue of conflicts of interest when elected
judges have political contributors with matters pending before them for decision. The Court held that the Constitution requires
judges to disqualify themselves from hearing a case when campaign spending by an interested party had “disproportionate
influence” on a case that was “pending or imminent.” This decision raised questions from the Indianapolis
Bar’s Professionalism Committee about contributions to judicial campaigns and how those contributions may impact judicial
recusal. In response, a Caperton Task Force was created by the Indianapolis Bar’s Board of Directors. After months of
consideration, which included focus group discussions with the judges of the Marion County Courts, the task force issued a
plan which was adopted by the Board of Directors last week.

The plan calls for the creation of a new political action committee to receive and distribute voluntary contributions to
judicial candidates for the Marion County Circuit and Superior Courts. The primary purpose of the PAC is to provide Indybar
members with an alternate method of supporting judicial campaigns while eliminating direct contact with any individual candidate.

“We believe this is an appropriate response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s recognition of problems associated with
campaign contributions to the judiciary,” said Christine Hickey, Indianapolis Bar Association President and task force
member. “We are attempting to fulfill the Bar’s responsibility to advance the fair and impartial administration
of justice.”

The task force plan stresses that the PAC is intended as a purely voluntary alternative to direct contributions for those
seeking to avoid an appearance of impropriety. “The ongoing mission of the organized bar is to instill public trust
and confidence in the judicial system. This is simply another demonstration of that effort,” said Hickey.

In contributing to the PAC, donors will not designate support for individual candidates, specific political affiliations,
and have no influence over disbursement to judicial candidates. Instead, all contributions received by the PAC, less minimal
administrative costs, will be distributed equally among all judicial candidates appearing on the general election ballot during
any calendar year in which a judicial election is held. The distribution shall be made after the certified candidate list
is released by the Election Division of the Indiana Secretary of State but no later than 30 days prior to the general election.

“By distributing after the primary election, the distribution of funds is both non-partisan and unbiased,” Hickey

Ultimately, the task force identified three goals for their effort: 1) to prevent the appearance that justice is for sale,
2) to promote public confidence in attorneys, judges and the judicial system, and 3) to provide a service to members by giving
them a choice to avoid making direct contributions to judges in whose court they may appear.

Task Force member Jimmie “Tic Tac” McMillian noted, “The plan is in no way a denouncement of those who
make direct judicial campaign contributions. It provides an optional method of giving for those wanting to provide financial
support, but looking for a way to do so without direct connection or the writing of several checks.”

The task force’s next step is to form the PAC in compliance with statutory requirement which will be completed this

In addition to Hickey and McMillian, those serving on the task force include the following: Chair, Hon. Anthony Metz of the
U.S. Bankruptcy Court, A. Scott Chinn of Baker & Daniels, James Dimos of Frost Brown Todd, John Kautzman of Ruckleshaus
Kautzman Blackwell Bemis & Hasbrook, Kevin McGoff of Bingham McHale LLP, and Jim Voyles of Voyles Zahn Paul Hogan &

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