On the heels of the most expensive Supreme Court race in state history, State Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson told a legislative panel Tuesday that the issue of public financing for campaigns needs to be re-examined. She says it is a timely and vital subject, which is important to keeping a fair, impartial, and non-partisan judiciary.

The Chief Justice says changes are needed to maintain the public's trust in the courts. She says private money in elections can undermine the judiciary and our system of government.

Abrahamson has been a long time supporter of public financing, relying on it in her past three campaigns for the high court. But, she warned lawmakers that reform proposals must not limit free speech. Abrahamson says her support is limited by whether a proposed system would stand up to the court's scrutiny.

The issue of public financing of judicial campaigns is receiving growing interest after the state's most recent Supreme Court election . An estimated $6 million was spent on the race between Judge Annette Ziegler and attorney Linda Clifford. Much of that spending was from special interest groups.

AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (MP3 1:14)

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