Do Non-Partisan, Publically Financed Judicial Elections Enhance Relative Judicial Independence?

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Judicial Studies (LL.M.)


Duke University School of Law


Twenty-one states elect appellate judges, while the others use gubernatorial appointment, legislative elections or merit selection plans. In 1994, North Carolina changed its superior court elections from partisan to non-partisan elections. Partisan elections for District Court judges were eliminated in 1996 in lieu of nonpartisan elections. By 2004, this same switch to non-partisan elections for appellate elections was completed along with a voluntary public campaign financing system for appellate judges. This paper compares elections before and after the adoption of a non-partisan publically funded election system, and concludes that while public financing was widely utilized by candidates and equalized funding among candidates, these changes have only marginally reduced the influence of outside money, promoted public interest in judicial elections, or enhanced relative judicial independence. The paper concludes that any system short of selection with tenure during good behavior will compromise judicial independence.


Originally submitted as a theses in fulfillment of the requirements of the Master of Judicial Studies (LL.M.) degree. Then subsequently revised as a law review article in the North Carolina Law Review.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Judicial independence, Judges--Election, Judges--Selection and appointment, Campaign funds, Nonpartisan elections