Appeals Court Judge Karen Baker has announced she won’t accept campaign contributions from lawyers who practice before her through her campaign to win a state Supreme Court vacancy. She calls on her opponents, currently only Circuit Judge Tim Fox has announced, to do the same.
This does not mean Baker won’t accept contributions from other lawyers, including those who might share firms and offices with people who practice before her or lawyers who’ve been before her in the past. A spokesman said it was impossible to predict the future, but that the judge would consider recusal in the future should a campaign backer turn up as counsel in her courtroom at some point in the future.
Lawyers traditionally are the primary engine of judicial campaign financing. It’s a dilemma. Anyone seeming to put a limitation on it likely will be viewed positively. (More positively still if they vowed to take NO contributions from lawyers.) But don’t mistake the strategy at work here. An appeals court judge sees a relatively small number of lawyers over the course of the year. A trial judge in the state’s biggest county sees many, many more. Baker is attempting to make a strength out of expected financial weakness.