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Mudslinging in Judicial Campaigns — First-Ever Conference Set for D.C.

The Annenberg Public Policy Center and are sponsoring the first-ever conference on advertising in judicial elections on May 23 in Washington, D.C.

Mudslinging in Judicial Campaigns: Beginning to Look a Lot Like Congress will bring together judges, campaign media consultants and close observers of the escalation in money spent on ads in state Supreme Court races.

In 2006, spending on those ads totaled about $16 million in 10 states, more per election than ever before. Negative ads, including false and misleading ones, are on the rise too, making the ads look more and more like spots one might see in congressional contests. That raises some provocative questions: Are courtroom outcomes affected when judges worry about the attack ads they could face when they’re up for re-election?  Do such ads contribute to waning public confidence in an independent judiciary? Should judges stay out of the fray (and if so, how?) — or is the current trend a good one that ensures judges don’t become too cloistered? How do First Amendment concerns play into the equation?