Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Judicial Elections' Category

Conservative Tennessee Group: Keep Politics out of Courts

In advance of the Tennessee Supreme Court retention election Aug. 7, a conservative group has joined others urging that politics be kept out of the courthouse, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported.

TN-Supreme-Court-stock“Partisan politics should not enter into the court system,” said Lloyd Daugherty, chairman of the Tennessee Conservative Union. His group, which launched an effort against retaining another Supreme Court justice in 1996, voiced support for retaining Chief Justice Gary Wade, one of three justices seeking a new term on Aug. 7.

The three justices were appointed by a Democratic former governor. They are facing a Republican-led ouster effort from critics who have disagreed with their rulings and the court’s appointment of a Democrat to serve as state attorney general. Read more

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NY Times Blog: Elected Judges to Get ‘Intimidating Message’?

Image From State Government Leadership Foundation Ad

Image From State Government Leadership Foundation Ad

In the New York Times, a member of the editorial board voices dismay over increasingly expensive, politicized state judicial elections. The essay says  Tennessee’s Supreme Court retention election Aug. 7 has big implications.

Dorothy J. Samuels’ commentary appears in the blog of the Times editorial page editor and is headlined, “If Judges Campaign Like Ordinary Politicians, Can We Have Impartial Courts?”

Taking note of a costly North Carolina Supreme Court primary in May and the current run-up to the Tennessee  election, which now is in the thick of an air war (see Gavel Grab), Samuels laments what is becoming all too common: “Another election season, another round of expensive state judicial elections destined to undermine the core American principle of fair and impartial courts.”

It’s evident since three Iowa Supreme Court justices were unseated in 2010 over a controversial marriage ruling that state judges who come under attack must fight back, she writes. “But no one should feel good about judges having to grovel for money and campaign like ordinary politicians.” Read more

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In N.C. Election, a ‘Fear That Justice Will be Warped,’ Brandenburg Says

jas_logo“The biggest democracy issue that nobody’s heard of” is confronting North Carolinians, given record-breaking spending on a state Supreme Court primary in May, Justice at Stake Executive Director Bert Brandenburg said in a podcast interview with NC Policy Watch.

Brandenburg recapped the primary race, in which more than $1.3 million was spent on TV advertising, and he noted that four seats on the high court will be up for grabs in the November general election.

“The more money coming in, you have more fear that justice will be warped,” he cautioned, as judges find themselves caught in a system “where interest groups from both sides are pouring money in, pressuring candidates to essentially take their side in advance, before cases are even heard.”

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JAS Cited on TN Court Race: When Public Fears ‘Justice is for Sale’

Image From Fox 17 Newscast

Image From Fox 17 Newscast

When politics and justice collide, there are major concerns about the outcome, a News Channel 5 report said in spotlighting Justice at Stake’s concerns about the run-up to Tennessee Supreme Court retention election Aug. 7.

A TV ad critical of three justices seeking a new term began airing over the weekend, accusing them of being “liberal on crime” and of having “advanced Obamacare in Tennessee.” In fact, the justices have not ruled on the federal Affordable Care Act, News Channel 5 said, and the court rejected a convicted killer’s appeal in the case cited as proof of the “liberal on crime” charge.

“We ask our judges to apply cases one at a time based on the law and the constitution — and not on political pressure and not on fund-raising,” JAS Executive Director Bert Brandenburg told News Channel 5. ”So the big risk is that a judicial election could turn into an auction to the point where you have the public fearing that justice is for sale.” JAS reported earlier that both sides have pumped more than $300,000 into TV ads so far. Read more

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Art Pope’s Influence on Politics and Judicial Elections is Profiled

N.C. Budget Director Pope

N.C. Budget Director Pope

North Carolina budget director Art Pope, a well-heeled political donor-turned-government-official with a singular profile in American politics, is the topic of a lengthy and intriguing Washington Post profile. It prominently discusses Pope’s role in ending public financing for judicial races in the state.

Gavel Grab has mentioned Pope’s efforts last year to influence a state House vote that killed the pioneering public financing program. The Post article says because of that program’s demise, which Pope “helped end as budget director,” the political rules have changed. “Wealthy outside groups have a greater ability to affect such races” as this year’s North Carolina Supreme Court race, it says. The Post’s Matea Gold gives this description of Pope’s rise to influence: Read more

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TN Election: Debate Over Justices’ Handling of Criminal Law

TennesseeAs the Tennessee Supreme Court retention election approaches, there is continuing debate about the candidates’ records for handling criminal law matters.

This week Verna Wyatt, who identifies herself as a crime survivor and victims’ advocate, wrote an op-ed in The Tennessean entitled, “Justices’ decisions troubling for victims advocates.” Regarding the three justices who are seeking retention on Aug. 7, she urged readers, “Be an informed voter. Tennesseans have a right to weigh in on the high court judges, and it’s our duty to make an informed decision to ‘retain’ or ‘replace.’”

In addition, at a meeting in East Tennessee this week, some crime victims and families of victims voiced concerns about the justices’ rulings on victims’ rights, according to a WBIR report. A WATE report was headlined, “Victims’ Rights Advocates meet to discuss retention vote.”

On the other hand, the Fraternal Order of Police announced support for retaining the three justices, according to News Channel 5. “We enforce as officers the laws that are written, and we expect our justices to enforce the laws the way they interpret the laws and adjudicate on what the interpretations are,” said State FOP President Johnny Crumby. Read more

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Outside Spending in N.C. Court Primary is Detailed

gavel-and-cash.125192919_stdAn analysis of data from North Carolina’s Supreme Court primary in May shows that a state group that received $900,000 from the Washington-based Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) in turn funded $899,000 in TV advertising.

Justice for All NC funded ads critical of Justice Robin Hudson. Ultimately, Justice Hudson and Superior Court Judge Eric Levinson were the top vote-getters in the May 6 primary and they will face off in the state Supreme Court general election. Justice at Stake reported that the bulk of $1.3 million spent on the primary was for ad spending to elect Judge Levinson or attorney Jeanette Doran and to oust the incumbent.

The spending by Justice for All NC was reported by the Institute for Southern Studies at its website. Justice for All NC’s critical ads were “made possible largely due” to the RSLC contributions, the article said. Read more

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As TN Ad Wars Begin, JAS Wary of Big-Spending Court Race

The ad wars have started in Tennessee Supreme Court retention election, and both sides in the battle over retaining three justices have made questionable claims, says a News Channel 5 investigative report.

As the ad wars get under way, Justice at Stake Executive Director Bert Brandenburg cautioned that what appears to be turning into a big-spending contest in Tennessee could harm fair and impartial courts. The justices had a collective total of $671,130 campaign cash on hand as of July 1 (see Gavel Grab).

“The more we subject our judges and justices to outside pressures — to big money and special interest pressure — the more we pressure them to make decisions based on special interest pressure instead of the law and the constitution,” Brandenburg said in a JAS video. Read more

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TN Editorial: ‘No Place for State Politics’ in the Courtroom

Tennessee Supreme CourtThe “Courtroom is no place for state politics,” a Jackson (Tennessee) Sun editorial declared in urging citizens to heed its advice to vote in the upcoming Tennessee Supreme Court retention elections.

With three justices who were appointed by a Democrat up for retention, Republican Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey has spearheaded an ouster effort. The editorial took issue with the campaign, saying, “Votes in this race should not be based on the urgings of a legislator hoping to influence the judicial branch.”

While Ramsey has every right to believe that the justices are soft on crime and harmful to Tennessee business, the editorial said, “[W]e don’t believe the courtroom is the place for state politics.” Read more

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As TN Court Race Warms Up, National Group Assails Judges

Screen shot 2014-07-15 at 2.47.01 PMA Washington-based group, the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), has begun sending out a mailer in Tennessee that urges, “Bench our liberal Supreme Court justices.”

Three Tennessee Supreme Court justices will stand for retention (up-or-down) election Aug. 7, and the RSLC signaled with its mailer that it is wading into the effort to purge the trio, each of whom was appointed by a Democrat.

“Tennessee trial lawyers have packed our Supreme Court with justices like [Cornelia] Clark, [Sharon] Lee and [Gary] Wade, who are too liberal and do not share our Tennessee values,” the mailer says, according to a Knoxville News Sentinel blog. “When 28 states fought Obamacare, Tennessee sided with Obama. Why? The left-wing Supreme Court appointed a liberal Democrat to be our attorney general and he refused to join the lawsuit against Obamacare, hurting our families and businesses.” Read more

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