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An investigative report of campaign contributions by President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees showed that 45 appointees to appellate and district courts have made political donations while under official consideration for judgeships. Although currently no ethical rules prohibit campaign contributions by candidates to the federal bench, proposed changes to the American Bar Association’s Model Code of Judicial Conduct would ban the practice. Currently, federal judges are prohibited from making political contributions only after they are confirmed to the bench. The final code revisions, which recommend a wide range of judicial ethics reforms aimed at state judicial elections but also affecting federal judges, are set for release on Nov. 15, and will be voted on by ABA delegates during the Miami convention in February 2007. Under the proposed ethics canon, once an attorney is clearly a candidate for a federal judgeship, he or she “definitely cannot contribute to politicians,” said William Hodes, a professor emeritus at Indiana University School of Law. He is co-reporter on the ABA Joint Commission to Evaluate Model Code of Judicial Conduct. When a private citizen starts talking to senators about the desire to be a federal judge, he or she would fall under engaging in solicitation of support in Canon 4, Hodes said. That person “would be a candidate and would have to stop giving contributions,” he said. A report released on Oct. 31 by the Center for Investigative Journalism examined political contributions by nominees to federal judgeships under Bush. It found that 11 of 47 appellate judges and 34 of 202 district judges gave campaign contributions to the senators that recommended them or to Bush or the Republican Party while under consideration. Among the judges cited in the report was Judge Deborah Cook of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, who, along with her husband Robert Linton, gave $11,000 in donations to Ohio Republican senators Michael DeWine and George Voinovich and Ohio Governor Bob Taft after her May 9, 2001, nomination to the bench. Following her confirmation on May 5, 2003, an $800 contribution identified as from Deborah Linton, U.S. District Judge, in December 2005, was made to DeWine. He refunded the check three weeks later, the report states. The report also found that U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson of Los Angeles, appointed by President Bill Clinton in July 1996, had contributions recorded in his name to a Republican candidate for Mississippi secretary of state, a Montana Democrat running for Senate in 2000 and to Senator Joseph Biden, D-Del. Neither Cook nor Pregerson returned calls seeking comment. The center report indicates Pregerson told them any contributions made were through his wife and their joint checking account.

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