In a move which troubles us at OVC, judicial candidate Eugene Sperazza has decided to no longer accept donations received from fellow attorneys, and he will return all he has received to date – about $37,000, the Times Leader reports.
“I have asked the committee to return or forward to a charity of the lawyer’s choosing approximately $37,000 and any additional contributions that may be received in the future,” Sperazza, a candidate for one of two open seats on the county Court of Common Pleas, said Thursday.
“Although contributions from attorneys are authorized by Pennsylvania’s Judicial Code, I feel strongly that this is the right thing to do to restore the people’s confidence in our judiciary and in our profession,” Sperazza said in the release. “After careful consideration of what has occurred in Luzerne County as well as the understandable growing lack of public trust, I feel that all questions concerning any conflict of interest should be removed from the court system.”
Sperazza said he wants to take all steps necessary to assure the people of the county that his rulings will be arrived at in an independent, fair and just manner. “If that means returning legitimate contributions from my fellow professionals, so be it,” he said.
We are troubled by this action, because as we have written in the past, we are not troubled by contributions by lawyers to judicial candidates. What troubles us and makes us stand up and take notice are large contributions by any individual, lawyer or not.
If a judge candidate has a cocktail party for $125 a head, and a lawyer and his significant other attend, we don't believe that the $250 contribution will have any bearing on judicial decision making. If it would, we question as to why that particular lawyer is running for judge in the first place. Remember, former Judge Conahan tried this tactic in 1993 when he was first elected, and we all know how that turned out.
Although it is admirable to want to restore public confidence in our disgraced judiciary, Sperazza, we believe, is only looking for some publicity in this move. We know this move will curry favor with the shock jock wannabes like Steve Corbett and the anti-lawyer crowd, but it doesn't impress us in the least bit.
Judges are supposed to be insulated from the whims of popular opinion. They should not float like a leaf in the wind, being blown in all directions. It is through this insulation from the transient nature of public opinion that they can make the tough decisions, which are not always popular. Protecting the constitutional rights of individuals is not always popular, but who among us would want those rights determined by the latest public opinion polls.
Caving to public pressure is not a virtue and not a quality we desire in any judge.