Gavel Grab

Record Candidate Spending Ahead in N.C. Court Elections This Fall?

Cash-gavel-sold1Candidates for the North Carolina Supreme Court and state Court of Appeals are poised to spend record sums in campaigning for election this fall, according to an analysis by Facing South, the online magazine of the Institute for Southern Studies.

Five court candidates and one district attorney candidate have reserved sets of joint TV ads that total almost $500,000, the magazine said. At the same time, with the state legislature having killed a public financing program for judicial elections, candidates may be taking significant cash from parties who end up appearing before the winner in court.

In the case of incumbent Chief Justice Mark Martin, the article said, of $121,000 in campaign contributions made during April-June 2014, 43 percent of the contributors are attorneys and judges. Read more

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Senate Ballot Dispute to Come Before Kansas High Court

0In a politically charged and nationally watched dispute, the Kansas Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Tuesday in an effort to decide whether Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Chad Taylor may remove his name from the November ballot.

Taylor’s recent attempted withdrawal from the race with Republican Sen. Pat Roberts and Independent Greg Orman has widely been viewed as changing the dynamics of the contest, and possibly in favor of Orman. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, however, has contended that Taylor did not meet the legal requirements for withdrawal in the letter he submitted, because he did not declare he would be incapable of serving if voters elected him. Read more

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Arkansas Supreme Court Removes Judge Maggio From Bench

1372349497-maggioThe Arkansas Supreme Court has ordered immediate removal of Faulkner County Circuit Judge Mike Maggio from the bench, rejecting a part of a settlement agreement by the judge that he be suspended with pay until the end of 2014.

“We deem any further suspension with pay to be inappropriate,” the high court said, according to the Associated Press. The judge was disciplined over his disclosing  confidential details about an adoption involving actress Charlize Theron and making off-color remarks in an online forum (see Gavel Grab). Read more

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Friday Gavel Grab Briefs

In these other dispatches about fair and impartial courts:

  • Regarding a domestic assault charge against U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller of Alabama, a Washington Post blogger asked if the court system is being too lenient on him and others; and WIAT in Birmingham reported, “Retired federal judge weighs in on Fuller charges.”
  • Frank Daniels III wrote in The Tennessean that the “secret selection process” used by the state’s highest court to pick an attorney general is wrong, and a Tennessean news article said the court’s pick will be announced on Monday.
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More Debate Over Changing Way Tennessee Judges are Picked

The debate is warming up over a proposed constitutional amendment to change the way appellate judges are selected in Tennessee.

The Tennessee Sheriffs’ Association and the Tennessee State Lodge of  Fraternal Order of Police have urged Tennesseans to vote “yes” on the ballot item in November, according to a Crossville Chronicle article, which appeared to reprint a news release.

“Amendment 2 brings new clarity and accountability to the process of selecting Tennessee’s Supreme Court and appellate court judges,” said FOP President Johnny Crumby. “We need the best judges, not the best politicians. Amendment 2 will help ensure that we get the fair and impartial judges that Tennesseans want and need.” Read more

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JAS, Partner: Special Interests Take Aim at Reshaping Courts

When state high court judges and candidates face voters this fall, special interest groups are expected to flood the contests with spending in an effort to reshape the courts, Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice warned on Thursday.

JAS-LogoAlready this year, more than $3.1 million has been spent on TV ads in state supreme court primaries and off-cycle elections, the groups said in a statement.  Three states with off-cycle elections (Tennessee, Idaho, and Arkansas) saw greater spending than in their prior election cycles, while North Carolina saw record spending in its primary (more than $1.3 million).

“The warning signs are there: more special interest campaigns are on the way to capture courts and pressure judges,” said JAS Executive Director Bert Brandenburg. “It’s time to start looking seriously at solutions that would reduce political pressure on our courts, put quality first and keep judges from raising money from parties who appear before them.” Read more

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Judge Removed From Bench After Ordering Electro-Shock

The Maryland Court of Appeals has removed Charles County Circuit Court Judge Robert C. Nalley from the bench. Maryland State Public Defender Paul DeWolfe earlier requested Judge Nalley’s removal, after the judge “ordered a defendant in his courtroom to be electro-shocked to shut him up,” according to Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy.

According to the Baltimore Sun, “Maryland has a mandatory retirement age for judges, but the Court of Appeals can give them permission to keep hearing cases.” Judge Nalley had officially retired earlier. Read more

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Three Nominees for U.S. Bench in Texas Win Senators’ Praise

United_States_Capitol_dome_daylightThree of President Obama’s nominees for the federal district courts in Texas were praised at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing by the state’s two Republican senators, the Dallas Morning News reported.

The three include U.S. Attorney Robert Pitman of San Antonio, who would become the state’s first openly gay federal judge if confirmed. The three individuals were selected by the White House in a deal earlier this year with the Texas senators.

Judicial vacancies in Texas have been described as at a “crisis point” (see Gavel Grab.) The nominees still must win approval by the committee and, if that occurs, from the full Senate. Read more

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Thursday Gavel Grab Briefs

In these other dispatches about fair and impartial courts:

  • At its Sept. 29 private conference, the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to consider petitions from five states asking the court to rule on the constitutionality of state bans on marriage for same-sex couples, the Wall Street Journal reported. “[I]t would be a surprise if the Court opted to bypass the issue altogether in its new Term,” SCOTUSblog wrote.
  • “Mark Fuller can’t stay on bench,” a Montgomery Advertiser editorial declared about a federal district judge in Alabama who has been accused of assaulting his wife (see Gavel Grab).
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Wednesday Gavel Grab Briefs

In these other dispatches about fair and impartial courts:

  • A Washington Post column by Courtland Milloy was headlined, “Md. official wants judge removed for ordering man be shocked with Stun-Cuff.”
  • The states of Wisconsin and Indiana have appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court the striking down by an appellate court of their bans on marriage for same-sex couples, and a consensus of opinion is emerging that the nation’s highest court ought to resolve the issue, an Associated Press article said. 
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