Archive for the 'JAS Partner News' Category
A new 50-state analysis the by the National Institute of Money in State Politics finds that lax rules in many states let outside groups sponsor attack political advertising behind a veil of secrecy.
It’s nearly impossible in 30 states to find out how much cash outside groups are pumping into elections, the report said, and 35 states require less disclosure of independent spending than do federal election laws, according to an article by the Center for Public Integrity.
You can see the NIMSP report by clicking here.
As Jane Kelly prepared to take the oath on Friday as an Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge, an Associated Press profile labeled her career as a public defender rare for a judge.
Most appeals court judges are former prosecutors or trial judges, the AP reported. Kelly also will be only the second woman ever to serve on the Eighth Circuit bench.
“Her story is compelling all the way around,” said Debra Fitzpatrick of the Infinity Project, a Justice at Stake partner group. It advocates for greater gender diversity on the Eighth Circuit. “Her credentials and her background and her career sort of set her up to be the right candidate at the right time.”
When public defender Ed Sheehy (photo right) was running for a seat on the Montana Supreme Court in 2012, an organization listed as the Montana Growth Network sent out mailers accusing him of being “soft on crime.” Sheehy had won the primary race, but went on to lose the general election in November, reports the Redlands Daily Facts.
Sheehy blames the mailers for his defeat, but due to Montana’s campaign disclosure laws, he was not able to find out who funded the organization. Before the primary, the Montana Growth Network endorsed District Judge Laurie McKinnon (photo below left), the article says, and she later went on to win the election.
A third candidate, attorney Elizabeth Best, spent the most money on her campaign of the three candidates. She told the Center for Public Integrity that she was “stunned” by the outcome. Read more
A Republican-sponsored bill that would restrict the ability of Wisconsin circuit court judges to block state laws has the effect of “putting citizens at risk of irreparable harm from constitutional violations,” according to two critics of the measure.
“Wisconsin lawmakers should not attack judiciary,” declared the headline for a Wisconsin Journal Sentinel op-ed by Matthew Menendez, counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice, and Andrea Kaminski, executive director of the League of Women Voters of WI Education Network.
If the measure became law, an order by a circuit court could be appealed immediately, and if that were done inside 10 days, the lower court’s order would be stayed. Thhis would apply when a circuit judge, ruling on a state law, restrained its enforcement or suspended the statute.
According to the authors, the bill would weaken the judiciary and undermine “the very purpose that injunctions serve, in preventing the irreparable harm that is likely if the government is allowed to violate citizens’ constitutional rights until all litigation and appeals have concluded.”
The measure was expected to receive a vote this week, but minority Democrats in the Wisconsin State Assembly delayed a vote until legislators return to work in June, the Associated Press reported.
The Brennan Center and the League of Women Voters are JAS partner groups.
Rhode Island’s merit selection process to insulate judicial selection from politics has been undermined, according to the watchdog group Common Cause Rhode Island.
John Marion, the group’s executive director, said there is a deadline of 21 days for governors to select judges from candidates listed by the Judicial Nominating Commission, but governors have “ignored” it, according to a Providence Journal article. He said legislators annually enact legislation that permits the governor to take nominees from outdated candidate lists.
On Friday, Gov. Lincoln Chafee (photo) nominated former state Senate president Joseph Montalbano for a Superior Court judgeship. Montalbano was recommended by the Judicial Nominating Commission for a judgeship in August 2010, according to a different Providence Journal article. Read more
The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that in the case of same-sex marriages, both parents must be permitted to have their names listed on a newborn child’s birth certificate.
The court ruling was premised on the same reasoning applied in Varnum v. Brien, according to a Washington Blade article. That Iowa Supreme Court ruling in 2009 found it unconstitutional to deny civil marriage to same-sex couples. The following year, an ouster campaign funded in large part by out-of-state interest groups led to the removal in a retention (up-or-down) election of three Supreme Court justices who had participated in Varnum.
A similar attempt in 2012 to remove Justice David Wiggins from the bench did not succeed. Justice Wiggins (photo) wrote the recent decision about birth certificates.
“It is important for our laws to recognize that married lesbian couples who have children enjoy the same benefits and burdens as married opposite-sex couples who have children,” he wrote, according to a Los Angeles Times article. Read more
A judge who sentenced ex-Justice Joan Orie Melvin of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for corruption on Tuesday delivered stern remarks and an unusual order, which a newspaper labeled “humiliation.” According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
“At the judge’s order, Orie Melvin posed before the county photographer, in handcuffs. She must write notes of apology on the photograph and send one to every jurist in the state.”
“You brought shame to the judiciary,” Common Pleas Judge Lester Nauhaus told Orie Melvin, who was sentenced to three years in house arrest. “There are 500 members of the judiciary who have been tarnished by your behavior.”
The reform group Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, meanwhile, said in a statement that Orie Melvin owes an apology to the public:
“The most important apology Joan Orie Melvin must make is not to other members of the judiciary but to the people of Pennsylvania. Being a judge is about more than just deciding cases. It is about upholding the integrity of the judiciary and ensuring access to justice. It’s a difficult job with a lot of responsibility that often requires personal sacrifices. By engaging in campaign corruption, Orie Melvin broke her oath to Pennsylvanians. Judges must be held to a higher standard because they sit in judgment of others.” Read more
The Pennsylvania Cable Network’s Pennsylvania Neighborhoods program hosted a special panel recently on the state’s selection methods for judges.
Executive Director of Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, Lynn Marks, spoke during the panel on proposed efforts to change Pennsylvania’s system of judicial elections, according to a PMC press release. Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts is a Justice at Stake partner organization.
Sen. John Eichelberger (R), Sen. Anthony Williams (D) and Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor Kathleen Wilkinson also spoke on the panel. Read more
Robert Edgar, president of Common Cause and a former congressman from Pennsylvania for six terms, died on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.
“We are deeply saddened and shaken today by the passing of Bob Edgar,” Common Cause Board Chair Robert Reich said in a press statement. “Bob will be remembered for his decency, kindness, compassion and humor. His deep commitment to social justice and strengthening our democracy is his greatest gift to Common Cause and the nation. Our hearts are with Bob’s family, his wife Merle, and sons Andrew, David and Rob, and their families.”
Common Cause is a Justice at Stake partner group.
Individuals contributing to political campaigns are looking for more ways to endorse candidates while avoiding campaign finance laws, according to Rich Robinson, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.
Robinson met with members of the League of Women Voters recently to discuss the issues in campaign finance, reports the Observer & Eccentric Newspaper. The Michigan Campaign Finance Network is a Justice at Stake partner organization.
Robinson says many TV ads for campaigns are “issue advertisements.” They don’t endorse or oppose a candidate; the ads urge the listener to contact a candidate and express their opinion on an issue, the article says.
While speaking at the Livonia Civic Center Library, Robinson noted that expenditures for these advertisements do not have to be reported to the Department of State’s campaign finance reporting system. Read more