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Judges' campaign stumbles

August 16, 1998

Two Washington County Circuit Judges running for 15-year terms last week said they saw nothing wrong with a letter their campaign sent to local lawyers, urging them to ask their current and former clients to support their ticket. Their lack of vision is troubling, for reasons we'll explain.

Imagine for a moment that you're someone with a case coming up in court, and your attorney approaches you and tells you that Judges Donald Beachley and Kennedy Boone III (one of whom may hear your case) have asked him or her to seek your support.

Do you say: a) "Forget it!" or b) "Sure, and what else can I do to help?"

Most people in that situation would probably choose option b, not because they'd be comfortable with it, but because with who-knows-what at stake in court, they'd be afraid not to.

That brings up two questions: Are Judges Boone and Beachley really unaware of the power that their positions give them to intimidate people, and how this appeal for support could be misinterpreted? And more important, is the support they get through this appeal worth risking the court's reputation as a fair and impartial arbiter of justice?

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The message that these candidates - or any candidate in a judicial election - should be delivering is that they deserve to stay on the bench because in their courtrooms you'll get a fair shake and the benefit of their legal expertise, even if you didn't support them in the election.

We don't believe that these actions were ill-intended; it's probably been a long time (if ever) since either man had to stand in court with their fate in the hands of someone they didn't know. It is not too late for them to reconsider and reject this tactic, and reassure the public that those who wear the robes of the judiciary aren't dispensing justice based on anything but the facts of the cases before them.

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