North Carolina was the first state to pass a law offering an option for state judicial candidates to seek office using a full public financing system. Participation in the program has been high and public response has been sufficient to advance campaigns to offer a full public financing option for other races in the state. But a group is challenging North Carolina's law with the dubious "free speech" argument which a group of judges says misses the entire point of the program.
The public financing program was designed to allow candidates for the Supreme and Appellate courts to run without asking for money from lawyers and others who might well have business before the court, and also to open the doors to candidates without the financial means to seek election under the old system. Challenges to the system that employ the campaign- contributions-as-a-kind-of-free-speech argument, this group of judges argue, seem to disregard the larger definition of speech:
They noted that before the law was enacted in 2002, judicial campaign fund-raising here was on the same upward curve seen in many other states -- and as a result, the impartiality of judges who had to beat the bushes for contributions in order to be competitive was increasingly open to question. They also contend that far from choking off speech, public financing yields a broader spectrum of candidates who can bring fresh ideas to the table.