Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Judicial Fundraising

Indiana Barrister says

On September 15, supporters of Marion County Superior Court Judge Becky Pierson-Treacy are hosting a fundrasier here in Indianapolis. No biggie, right? Well instead of a flat donation request, they’ve allowed for different levels of donating.

* $150 gets you a “Sustained”
* $250 gets you “Affirmed”
* $500 gets you “So Ordered”
* $1000 gets you “Favorable Ruling”

and, in another post,
Apparently Marion County Superior Court Judge Becky Pierson-Treacy is telling fellow judges and lawyers that she and husband Marion County Democratic Chairman Ed Treacy were just joking when they put out their fundraiser invitation that suggested a $1000 contribution will get you a “favorable ruling”....

A number of lawyers who dabble in politics have asked why she even needed to raise money in the first place as judges in Marion County are slated and usually win.

The free market at work?


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Should the judge be disciplined? Should the law make an ad like that illegal? Is it bribery?

    Should contributions to judicial campaigns be outlawed? (Pretend the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution doesn't prevent making them illegal.)

    Should judge be appointed by the mayor instead of being elected?

    Why would the judge want contributions if she is going to win anyway?

  3. Personally, I think the judge has worsened her appearance by playing off something with more serious undertones as a joke. If anything, to save some of her reputation, she and her husband should have addressed an apology to the public instead.

    In my opinion, one majorly important quality of a judge is moral character. In this case, I think Pierson-Treacy lacked both this quality along with another important trait: professionalism.

    A judge is one to be looked up to and highly respected; however, this event has made her lose respect in the judicial profession as well as respect from the public.

    I am not quite sure why exactly she needed to raise the money. Maybe it is used to bribe the slating process; but I think for her and her supporters to advertise different donation amounts as those categories should be grounds for some kind of punishment towards her.

    A question this poses in my mind is: Does she treat her rulings over the lives of citizens as lightly as she is treating this mistake?

  4. I think that this was just bad taste, people are over sensitive. It was funny, it is funny.... it just isn't the right situation for it unfortunately. I say if I was constantly in her courtroom I would want a "favorable ruling".

  5. On the point of whether judicial contributions should be outlawed, then all contributions for any political or legislative office should be outlawed. And that would never fly.

  6. The impartial quality of law that protects it from human discretion is the value of its existence. And judges are to secure this unbiasedness. How can a judge still remain fair if he/she receives contributions and would thus like favor his/her donors?
    In this sense, such acts should be outlawed even the 1st Amendment may say differently, even the election process should be questioned. The judicial system, even though highly connected with the government, is not part of the government and is different in its principle. While the role of the government should be to act in the will of the people, judges should put exclusive emphasis on the principles rather than people’s wills. This is because sometimes what the majority propose may not be the righteous thing to do. What is more, raising funds in the first place may distort what actually is the majority’s voice because the supporters who pay are more vocal than the others. And who should be the one to monitor and regulate the government if both of them are generated the same way?
    As a result, I think we should appoint judges rather than electing them just like the case for the Chief Justice. However, that is still subject to the will of the government officials. So this is really a complicated problem. What is the relationship between justice and democracy?
    May be she raise funds to increase her influence.
    I’m not an American citizen and really don’t have much background on that.

  7. This seems like a joke that was taken out of context. I don't understand why the critics of the judge's joke do not just realize that there was no malice or ill will caused by the situation. There should not be any penalization.

  8. With regards to the comment about the judge wanting contributions, I don't think it can be said with certainty that "she is going to win anyways." Just as with every individual running for public office, this judge has the right to fundraise to pay for campaign expenses. It may be nearly obvious that she will win (especially as a Democrat in a strongly blue county), but she is accepting contributions (like most running for public office) to pay for a campaign to strengthen her position/image in her community.

  9. To touch on what Rachel said, this was simply an unprofessional move. I do, however, feel Judge Pierson-Treacy was within her rights (protected by the 1st Amendment) to print the ad and feel it is fairly unlikely she had any intention of being inappropriate. Whether or not this alters public perception of her is a different story.

    I would like to pose this question: Is a lack of professionalism becoming a behavioral trend with select public officials today? If yes, is this being amplified through our ability to communicate about it via the Internet and social media outlets?

  10. Although still a branch of government, the judiciary should distinguish themselves from the legislative and executive branch. Since they do run in elections, they should have the right to raise funds. However, the question whether to appoint judges or not is a great one. Their job is not based as much on supporting the people, but upholding laws and standards.

    Judges need to uphold a high moral standard at all times. This might be out of the "high moral standard" scope. Additionally, Judge Treacy does not have a great reputation as a judge in Indiana. I feel that this move might give her more political problems than legal ones.

  11. I think in this case, the Judge was trying to make a joke and it ended up making the mood even more tense, rather than lightening it. In response to Kate's question, I do believe that a lack of professionalism is being exhibited by many public officials today. And I also agree that it is because of new social media outlets. It is becoming increasingly difficult to have a private life if your profession puts you in the spotlight. This rings true for actors, professional athletes, as well as public officials.

    Public government officials are held to a higher standard because they are supposed to be the ones making decisions to improve the community. Making a joke about finances is a touchy subject for many people especially given the current economic climate. The joke was especially in bad taste since judges shouldn't have a reason to raise finances. When creating this fundraising invitation the judge should have more carefully considered how people might react to it.

  12. I agree with most of my classmates as this joke is in poor taste. Although it is a clever idea to draw in donations, it could ultimately result in a damaged reputation. The judge should have been more sensitive to this.
    What I feel is being overlooked is the fact she was fundraising to begin with. As the post notes, lawyers have questioned her as to why she is because this is uncommon for a judge in her situation. This should be the main focus of her criticism.

  13. In my personal opinion, I think this ad is a way for the judge to ask for contributions through soliciting bribery. I think the way the ad is formed, however, alows her to hide under the argument of "Oh, it was just a joke." It's particularly suspicious that she sent it out to attorneys she has worked with.

    I think that contributions should be outlawed because we do not want our justice system turning into congress. Many congressman/congresswomen win re-election on the ability to have more money than their opponent, making them "career" politicians, which in my opinion is not what they are supposed to be. I think contributions to judges skews their incentives, when judges are supposed to be as objective as possible. It is tough to say, however, if she should be appointed by the mayor. I think if a politician appointed a judge, it could also skew incentives for judges to make rulings in line with their political party.

    I am not sure why the judge felt she needed the contributions, but it goes back to my previous statement of the judge soliciting bribery, but hiding under the argument that it was a cute joke.

  14. Judges appointed to protect our country’s legal system are supposed to represent the upper echelon of morality and civility in our society. While Judge Pierson-Tracy did not explicitly violate any law, the satirical nature of this fundraising campaign can be characterized as insensitive and of poor taste. In today’s political environment with corruption and misconduct running rampantly throughout all sectors our country’s government, one would assume that individuals like Judge Pierson-Tracy would take more initiative to avoid tainting their reputations and marring their political careers.

  15. I don't understand why they were joking when they put out their fundraiser invitation. They should've started with apologies instead of saying that they were just joking.

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  17. I agree with the majority of the class that this is just a joke in poor taste. However, I think it is especially poor taste because of the heated political climate of today. I don't think that this should be as big of a deal as it is. We like to focus on things like this as a nation instead of the issues and rulings judges and politicians make or represent.

  18. I personally feel that this is clearly a joke. It may be half in bad taste, but it certainly illustrates the fact that our society, in contrast to Europe, takes itself far too seriously concerning politics. We live in a time of strict supervision, and it seems highly unlikely that a judge could publicly accept bribes.

  19. I particularly like Jonathan's comment saying that the Judge could be actually letting lawyers know she's bribeable while pretending that she's just making a joke. President Obama was criticized for this when he said, "I really thought this was much ado about nothing, but I do think we all learned an important lesson. I learned never again to pick another team over the Sun Devils in my NCAA brackets. . . . President [Michael] Crowe and the Board of Regents will soon learn all about being audited by the IRS." http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124260113149028331.html

    Perhaps it solves a problem of bribery: setting the amount of the bribe. This is a problem because since bribery is illegal, haggling is dangerous, and so the briber doesn't know what price the corrupt official wants. For this reason, busiensses sometimes hire "fixers" who know local customs adn prices.

    Disciplining judges is a tough problem. For an even crazier case, see the current 3-4 Wisconsin Supreme Court split on whether Justice Prosser tried to strangle Justice Bradley or whether he was just defending himself when she charged him. See

  20. From Maximilian Rödder on September 3:

    "In my opinion, the free market can only function if certain parts of society are independent from monetary power.
    The courts have to be independent and just to ensure predictability and fairness. Otherwise, businesses cannot operate and invest to their full potential. Therefore, members from the justice system (e.g. a judge) should be civil servants who should not be allowed to engage in any fundraising activity."

  21. Using "donation requests" makes the judge seem guilty of bribery. Even if the ad was printed in good humor, It ruined her public image. It seems questionable that she was just joking because she didn't even require donations to win. The legal system is perceived to have a just and fair standard of practice and negative actions like this can make people question the credibility of law enforcement.

  22. It is frustrating to see that a judge is asking for contributions. There was some time taken to think of creative names and labels for specific dollar amounts, so it leads me to think that this was something this judge cared about. Political figures should not focus on keeping their job/being elected. They should focus instead on their job and if they do their job well, they won't have to worry about raising money for themselves.

  23. Greasing judges or in general public figures is well known of. This doesnt surprise me. I do not think it can be eradicated, but as long as they are come down hard on when caught, that's good enough for me in an imperfect world.