Voluntary Disclosure Form Gives Public a New Way to Learn About Judicial Candidates
When voters choose judges, they are selecting the people who will preside over business disputes and personal family matters that wind up in court, as well as criminal trials. But frequently voters make decisions about who to vote for with only limited knowledge about candidates, who are constrained by law in what they can say in campaigns.
This year, however, with 59 judicial races on the ballot across the state, voters have a new means of learning about judicial candidates - The Florida Bar Judicial Candidate Voluntary Self-Disclosure Statement. These statements, which contain information about candidate's backgrounds, as well as personal statements, can be found on The Florida Bar website at www.floridabar.org/judicialcandidates.
Biographical information includes education, work history, and community involvement. Additionally, candidates were asked to include 100-word personal statements explaining why they believe they would serve the public well as judges. The statements were recommended by the Bar's Citizens Forum advisory group to help further inform voters.
As with other judicial candidate communications, the self-disclosure statements are governed by Cancn 7 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, which bars candidates from making statements that appear to commit them on legal issues likely to come before them in court. Before posting information online with The Florida Bar, candidates had to attest to the accuracy of the information they provided.
In total, 70 candidates responded in 59 races, for 47 percent participation rate. In the 32 circuit court races, at least one candidate responded in 19 races.
The Florida Bar supports maintaining a high quality judiciary and is committed to educating the public on the legal system. To that end, the Bar's Judicial Administration and Evaluation Committee developed the voluntary self-disclosure statement. It was approved by The Florida Bar Board of Governors for Implementation in 2010.
Additional information about judicial campaigns can be found on The Florida Bar website.
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