John Fairfield, a former prosecutor and respected state trial judge, is thinking of pursuing a lifelong dream: a seat on the state supreme court. In Fairfield's state, Centralia, all the judges are chosen in nonpartisan elections, with no limits on what can be spent-or said-in the process of campaigning. Fairfield wonders what will be required of him in what will be a fiercely contested statewide campaign. To start, he will have to raise funds—and many potential contributors are groups and businesses that are likely to appear before his court. Should this trouble Fairfield?
Once Fairfield announces his candidacy, a group called Centralians for an Informed Public sends him a survey asking him to spell out his judicial philosophy, and his opinion on certain controversial decisions such as Roe v. Wade. Should he answer the survey? One way or another, should he let the public know where he stands on issues they care about?
Fairfield's team will be running commercials, a requirement for a successful campaign. Should Fairfield's commercials attack his chief opponent, Judge Smith?
Two weeks before the election, Judge Fairfield is now in the lead; however, he has finished working on a trial court decision that, while legally straightforward, would be politically unpopular. Could he ethically hold the decision until after the election?
Ultimately, Fairfield is elected; but at the end of his term, he chooses not to run again. Instead, he campaigns for changes in the way Centralia selects its judges. What changes, if any, should be made?
Fairfield thought his time as a judge was over, but at the end of his term he receives a telephone call from the attorney general of the United States. The president nominates Fairfield for a United States Court of Appeals. The Constitution establishes that federal judges will be nominated by the president, confirmed by the Senate, and serve for life. Why did the founders reject elections for federal judges?
As we conclude, Fairfield is a U.S. Court of Appeals judge. His three-judge panel has just issued a very controversial decision overturning the conviction of an accused terrorist, and some people are attacking the judges as "traitors" who should be impeached or otherwise punished for their actions. How should Americans respond when judges are attacked in this way?