Inspired by recent media reports on campaign finance in Louisiana, Court Watch NOLA just finished publishing a series of Facebook posts researching the top donors to the campaigns of each Criminal District Court Judge… and the results were revealing.
By cross-referencing top campaign donors with data gathered by Court Watch NOLA, we found that the majority of top donors to several Judges’ campaigns were private criminal defense attorneys or bail bondsmen. In other words, many top donors are also doing business with or before the Court. 9 of the top 10 donors to one Judge’s campaign fit this description, in fact, while another Judge’s campaign chair is a private criminal defense attorney.
It is important to note that just because an attorney or bail bondsman who appears before a Judge also donates to that Judge’s campaign does not necessarily mean that anything wrong or illegal is going on. Our system of electing Judges forces judicial candidates to raise money, and the most motivated donors are naturally going to be private criminal defense attorneys and bail bondsmen, thus creating the appearance of a crooked system even where no wrongdoing may have occurred.
But appearances matter because they can degrade public trust in the system. And as Justice Brandeis said, sunlight is the best disinfectant. That’s why Court Watch NOLA will continue to shine a light on who is donating to whom in the upcoming judicial election season. “Like” Court Watch NOLA on Facebook to learn more.