by Barbara J. Andrews
Should judges be allowed to advertise or should judges’ selection committees hire a judging panel through politics and persuasion?
The AKC judges’ approval system and the long-established method of getting assignments subjugates honest people who just want to practice their craft. The convoluted system clearly favors handlers and wealthy club supporters who built their ladder of connections before applying.
It has worked well for AKC. How’s it working for you? As a breeder-judge, how often can you award ribbons based on breed type instead of who owns or backs the dog? How about you breeder-exhibitors whom AKC calls the “backbone of the sport”? Do you sometimes wonder if AKC approves blind judges? Or could it be the system erodes vision and judgment like rust on metal? Trust me, good judges cringe at pointing out winners according to who can get them another assignment. They want to spend time reviewing breed standards or playing golf instead of on the phone finagling assignments.
They were once YOU.
It was the Senior Conformation Judges who fought for and won Independence, casting off the shackles of secret soliciting. Their members demanded the right to get assignments through ability and entrepreneurship. Lt. Col. Pede says the SCJA's position is that “dog show judges, as independent contractors, have the right by federal statutes to advertise their services to judge.”
Aware of the difficulties new judges have getting assignments without being accused of “soliciting”, many years ago Col. Pede, Joe Gregory and other SCJA leaders came up with the “Help The Provisional Judges Program.” Not all judges thought it was a good idea to give up their judging fee to clubs that hired provisionals. Some quit the SCJA. Then the American Dog Show Judges (ADSJ) complained to the AKC about the SCJA’s Program. And sure enough, in 1999, the AKC issued a ruling against the SCJA’s Help The Provisional Judges Program, citing The Guidelines for Conformation Dog Show Judges which states that judges can “Never solicit or promote assignments.”
Our readers will figure out the reason the other judges association objected to helping provisional judges get the assignments necessary to become approved judges. While you’re pondering that, you might wonder how a judges group that offered a helping hand to all provisional judges and did so out in the open, could be seen as “soliciting” for a judge? You might want to page up and read the 2nd paragraph again. Depending on how well you know the sport, it's easy to understand that nothing which diminished the ingrained subjugation and the “who you know” system of getting assignments could be tolerated by AKC – or by judges who played the politics game and felt threatened by newcomers.
So what finally forced AKC to tear that page from The Guidelines for Conformation Dog Show Judge? The Senior Judges sent a letter to the AKC Board and the Judges Department. The letter questioned whether judges are AKC employees or Independent Contractors and announced the intent of “going to the federal government (IRS) for a determination as to whether AKC was violating IRS statutes concerning independent contractors and their right to advertise?”
This time the AKC must have sought advice from an IRS attorney because even their talented Legal Counsel, Margaret Poindexter, would find it hard to beat the Internal Revenue Service on its own code. Having managed Sears’ national Plumbing and Drain Service, I can vouch for that. Our company finally gave up and converted Independent Contractors to employees because we couldn’t meet the stipulations outlined by a federal government determined to collect every penny of taxes through employer payroll filings.
Imagine AKC’s dilemma. Are judges employees of the club that hires them or of the AKC which decides who is approved to judge and who can be employed by what clubs? And who then would be responsible for social security and other withholding taxes and administering insurance, retirement, and employee benefits?
Judges are free agents in that they do not have to accept a judging assignment. Whoops, then that means they can’t be prevented from advertising or shopping around for the best judging contracts. Yet AKC tells judges how to dress, when to show up, how to act, and they are governed by rigid rules on how they perform their job. Under IRS code, judges would be “judged” as employees.
Well you can see why AKC finally caved in to the SCJA’s long fought battle on behalf of judges and against the “who you are” or “who you know” system. The Senior Judges plan to reinstate their Provisional Program which was a huge boon to new judges and it will be equally beneficial to clubs struggling to fulfill contracts made before the bottom fell out of the economy.
Multi-Group judges are treasured but expensive cornerstones of the sport. At the risk of retribution, I must point out that if there was fair market competition for assignments, the prices and perks some judges command would be lowered and clubs would benefit. Is that why some judges have so vehemently resisted a fair judging structure?
As the first association for judges, the Senior Conformation Judges says “There are a number of other issues concerning the rights of our judges as independent contractors, and the SCJA intends to pursue them in strict accordance with the appropriate federal statutes.” The SCJA is noted for “firsts” and this bold move will go down in history.
It couldn’t come at a better time. Every week at least one judge tells me he or she is leaving the sport but perhaps, under a new system, they will stay. Personally, I think we are going to see changes in the judging itself. Oh sure, there will always be politics and friendships, that is human nature and even the SCJA can’t change that. But judges will find that they have ore freedom to award the best dogs without regard to where their next assignment is coming from. In so doing, the cream will rise to the top as it always does in a free marketplace.
Related Judges Information:
Judges Debate Solicitation Should they solicit assignments? Even they can't agree.
AKC Ethics teaches Judges How To Judge but loses Judges. Where's the logic?
Crime & Punishment "Addamo Asks" Was it fair or was it punishment?
The Purloined Poodle Top ranked winner, forged papers, a judge "trafficking in dogs"?
Judge Boulton Defeats AKC or did he? Not the $90,000 AKC/CHF settlement.
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