Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'JAS Partner News' Category

Editorial Urges Appointment of Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices

sealIn Wisconsin, site of an ongoing investigation of possible illegal coordination between outside groups and recall campaigns, the campaign of Gov. Scott Walker has asked the state Supreme Court to bypass lower courts and intervene in the investigation.

Now an editorial in the Beloit Daily News suggests a specter of a potential conflict of interest is raised by this latest development, because conservative justices on the high court “have received support totaling several million dollars from some of the groups apparently involved” in the “John Doe” investigation, as the probe is called.

Rather than hammer at the justices for them to recuse — which the editorial says is a decision for each of the jurists — it renews a call for a shift to the appointment of Supreme Court justices through a merit selection process, from the current election of these judges. It says the court should be an “honest referee”:

“No campaigns. No trolling for dollars. No questions about favors owed to donors. Read more

No comments

Alabama’s New Top Judge Raked in Money from 49 States in 2012

When Roy Moore won back his former job as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court in 2012, he raised more out-of-state money than any other appeals court judge running in the country, according to a new report by a Justice at Stake partner organization.

Moore’s campaign took in $265,440 — or 41 percent of his total campaign contributions — from donors in 49 states, the District of Columbia, and Australia and Canada, and $143,000 of the total came from an attorney in Maryland, the National Institute on Money in State Politics reported.

Its report is entitled “Courting Donors: Money in Judicial Elections, 2011 and 2012.” The study closely examines the $53.6 million raised by judicial candidates in that period, up from $45.4 million in 2009-2010 and down from $63.4 million in the last presidential election cycle, 2007-2008. Read more

No comments

McCutcheon Supreme Court Decision Likely to Affect Big Donors Most

The decision of the McCutcheon v. Federal Elections Commission case challenging the $123,000 federal aggregate limit could have the most effect on donors who already give large amounts of money to incumbents, according to a new report from the National Institute on Money in State Politics (NIMSP).

The report states that if contribution limits disappeared at all levels like after Citizens United v. FEC, most political donors in states would not be affected because they don’t give enough to reach the limit.

However, a ripple effect could be seen from those PACs, associations and other non-individual donors who give up to the limit and whose giving correlates to an interest in legislative activities.

Read more

No comments

National Association of Women Judges to Honor Justice at Stake

national-association-of-women-judgesThe National Association of Women Judges will present its “Partners in Justice Award” to Justice at Stake at a reception in Washington, D.C. on Thursday.

The award will be accepted by JAS Executive Director Bert Brandenburg. It will be presented in appreciation of Justice at Stake’s contribution to NAWJ’s “Informed Voters, Fair Judges” project, a nonpartisan voter education program developed to increase citizens’ knowledge of our judicial system.

The project arose out of NAWJ’s recognition that the ability of our courts to deliver on their fundamental promise of justice for all is threatened by the politicization of judicial races by powerful special interests. NAWJ is a JAS partner organization.

No comments

Bill to Shrink Washington Supreme Court is Killed

Washington’s Senate Rules Committee has deep-sixed a proposal to cut the size of the state Supreme Court through attrition from nine members to seven. The proposal was alternately seen as money-saving or court-bashing (see Gavel Grab).

The legislation was sent to the Senate Rules Committee’s “X” File last week, which effectively means it was killed, reported Gavel to Gavel, a publication of the National Center for State Courts. Earlier, a separate Senate committee had sent the bill to the full Senate. Read more

No comments

IL Judge, Mulling Retention Bid, Dogged by Controversial Case

A lawsuit under way in Illinois contends that State Farm, the insurance company, funded a multimillion-dollar campaign a decade ago to elect a state Supreme Court justice. A publication that has followed the lawsuit says the justice, Lloyd Karmeier, will decide soon whether to seek retention this year, and the litigation reflects how “one of his most controversial cases just won’t stay dead.”

The Madison-St. Clair Record has an article about the lawsuit, Hale v. State Farm, that is headlined, “Lack of clear rules for recusal underpins high stakes case against State Farm.” Last summer, the Center for American Progress issued a lengthy report about the litigation and the underlying issues, entitled “Dodging a Billion-Dollar Verdict.”

As Gavel Grab mentioned in a 2011 article about a related legal proceeding, then-circuit Judge Karmeier  defeated Appellate Judge Gordon Maag in the 2004 Illinois election, when $9.3 million was raised in the most expensive state judicial campaign in U.S. history. Justice Karmeier later refused to recuse himself from hearing an appeal in a class-action lawsuit, Avery v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co., despite questions raised that campaign backing from State Farm could taint his impartiality. Justice Karmeier voted in the majority to overturn a $1 billion award against the insurer. Read more

No comments

Bill Would Rewrite Recusal Rules for Alabama Judges

justice-scalesAlabama has a law requiring judges to recuse themselves if their campaign got a least $2,000 from a party to a case. But the law has not been enforced due to a disagreement between the Alabama Attorney General’s Office and the Alabama Supreme Court, and in 2011, a federal court threw out a lawsuit that could have settled the issue (see Gavel Grab).

Now legislation has been proposed to repeal the existing law and replace it with a new one, according to Gavel to Gavel, a publication of the National Center for State Courts. The bill has these provisions, which are quoted from it:

  • Requiring a judge to step aside from hearing a case if, “as a result of a substantial campaign contribution or electioneering communication” by a party in the past election, “[a] reasonable person would perceive that the judge or justice’s ability to carry out his or her judicial responsibilities with impartiality is impaired.” Read more
No comments

New ‘Justice Index’ Offers Online Database

NCAJThe National Center for Access to Justice at Cardozo Law School has launched an online database to measure access to civil legal assistance. It compares state-by-state data on such services as affordable legal counsel and foreign language interpreters, according to a New York Law Journal article.

The purpose of the Center’s “Justice Index” is  ”to wake states up to the importance of providing their courts with essential resources to deliver on the American promise of equal justice,” said David Udell, director of the center, which is a Justice at Stake partner organization.

Bert Brandenburg, JAS executive director, said, “The new Justice Index is a unique and vital tool that will help states strengthen their commitment to ensuring access to justice for all. The data is rich, and the site is user-friendly. It allows users to view information in multiple ways that provide additional insight into courts’ current strengths, as well as those areas in which new accessibility goals can be set. We applaud the work done by the National Center for Access to Justice to help our state courts continue to function as the bedrock on which flourishing local economies and communities are built.”

No comments

Will TN Legislature Revive a Judicial Nominating Commission?

Tennessee’s House Civil Justice Committee is expected to vote on Wednesday on legislation to revive a merit commission that vets candidates for judgeships and makes recommendations to the governor. The bill also would revise the state’s Board of Judicial Conduct.

In 2013, the legislature let the Judicial Nominating Commission expire, but Gov. Bill Haslam later established a similar advisory panel through an executive order (see Gavel Grab). The House legislation would revive the original commission until June 2015, according to Gavel to Gavel, a publication of the National Center for State Courts. The National Center is a JAS partner organization. Read more

No comments

Report: More Trial Court Vacancies Than Before Rules Change

Vacant judgeships on the nation’s federal district courts have increased from 75 to 80 since Senate Democrats forced a rules change in November to eliminate filibusters of most judicial nominations, the Brennan Center for Justice says.

In addition, the current number of trial court vacancies is significantly higher than at a corresponding point in the presidency of Bill Clinton (60) or President George W. Bush (35), the group says in a report. Writes Alicia Bannon, author of the analysis:

“Three months after Senate Democrats reformed the filibuster rules for executive and judicial nominees, Senate obstruction continues in new forms, and courts and litigants are paying the price.  When the Senate returns from its holiday recess on Monday, February 24, it should move forward on confirming pending judicial nominees.”

The Brennan Center is a Justice at Stake partner organization.

No comments

Next Page »