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Texas Supreme Court Advisory
June 8, 2009

Contact: Osler McCarthy, staff attorney for public information 512.463.1441

Texas Supreme Court Advisory - Elaboration on Chief Justice Jefferson's Statement

The Judicial Campaign Fairness Act incorporated voluntary campaign contribution limits established before the act by Chief Justice Phillips and others on the Court at the time. In some cases justices went further (for example, Justice Nathan Hecht imposed a limit that no more than half his contributions would come from lawyers).

In his statement on Caperton, Chief Justice Jefferson addresses the initiative of these limits as voluntary more than a decade ago, then cites the lawyer-law firm contribution limits established in the Judicial Campaign Fairness Act. Those are not voluntary, nor are the windows during which a judicial candidate can accept campaign contributions. But campaign spending limits per candidate remain voluntary.

These limits are on Texas judges and judicial candidates are unique in Texas campaign law. These limits and other facets of the Judicial Campaign Fairness Act are covered by Canon 5(4) of the Code of Judicial Conduct in Texas:
(4) A judge or judicial candidate subject to the Judicial Campaign Fairness Act, Tex. Elec. Code §253.151, et seq. (the "Act"), shall not knowingly commit an act for which he or she knows the Act imposes a penalty. Contributions returned in accordance with Sections 253.155(e), 253.157(b) or 253.160(b) of the Act are not a violation of this paragraph.
As the Texas Ethics Commission also spells out on its Web site: CONTRIBUTION LIMITS
A judicial candidate may not accept political contributions from a person that exceed certain limits in connection with an election. The contribution limits are:
· $5,000 for candidates for statewide judicial offices;
· $5,000 for candidates for courts of appeals, district courts, statutory county courts, or statutory probate courts if the population of the judicial district is more than one million;
· $2,500 for candidates for courts of appeals, district courts, statutory county courts, or statutory probate courts if the population of the judicial district is from 250,000 to one million; and
· $1,000 for candidates for courts of appeals, district courts, statutory county courts, or statutory probate courts if the population of the judicial district is less than 250,000. These limits apply to total contributions, both monetary and in-kind, from an individual or from an entity in connection with an election.

Law Firms and Persons Affiliated With Law Firms. There are additional restrictions applicable to contributions from law firms and individuals and entities affiliated with a law firm. See "Contributions From Law Firms and Persons Affiliated With Law Firm" in this guide:
· $30,000 for candidates for statewide judicial offices;
· $30,000 for candidates for courts of appeals, district courts, statutory county courts and statutory probate courts if the population of the judicial district is more than one million;
· $15,000 for candidates for courts of appeals, district courts, statutory county courts and statutory probate courts if the population of the judicial district is from 250,000 to one million; and
· $6,000 for candidates for courts of appeals, district judgeships, statutory county courts and statutory probate courts if the population of the judicial district is less than 250,000.

LIMITS ON TOTAL CONTRIBUTIONS FROM GENERAL-PURPOSE PACS The Judicial Campaign Fairness Act sets a limit on the total contributions a judicial candidate or officeholder may accept from general-purpose political committees in connection with one election. Also, as a practical matter, the rules regarding third-party limits put a cap on contributions to a judicial candidate or officeholder from any single general-purpose political committee. See "Third-Party Limits" in this guide.

Both monetary contributions and in-kind contributions count toward the aggregate limit on contributions from general-purpose political committees. Total political contributions from general-purpose political committees may not exceed:
· $300,000 for a candidate for a statewide judicial office;
· $75,000 for a candidate for chief justice or justice of a court of appeals if the population of the judicial district is more than one million;
· $52,500 for a candidate for chief justice or justice of a court of appeals if the population of the judicial district is one million or less;
· $52,500 for a candidate for judge of a district court, a statutory county court, or a statutory probate court if the population of the judicial district is more than one million;
· $30,000 for a candidate for judge of a district court, a statutory county court, or a statutory probate court if the population of the judicial district is 250,000 to one million; and
· $15,000 for a candidate for judge of a district court, a statutory county court, or a statutory probate court if the population of the judicial district is less than 250,000.

MONETARY LIMITS
The Judicial Campaign Fairness Act sets out voluntary limits on political expenditures. The limits apply to each election in which a candidate is involved. A complying candidate may not exceed the following limits:
· $2 million for a candidate for a statewide judicial office;
· $500,000 for a candidate for chief justice or justice of a court of appeals if the population of the judicial district is more than one million;
· $350,000 for a candidate for chief justice or justice of a court of appeals if the population of the judicial district is one million or less;
· $350,000 for a candidate for a district court, a statutory county court, or a statutory probate court if the population of the judicial district is more than one million;
· $200,000 for a candidate for a district court, a statutory county court, or a statutory probate court if the population of the judicial district is 250,000 to one million; and
· $100,000 for a candidate for a district court, a statutory county court, or a statutory probate court if the population of the judicial district is less than 250,000.

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