Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Judicial Elections' Category

‘Openly Hostile’ Contest for Chief Justice in North Carolina

Two Republican candidates for Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court swapped barbs at a political event over the weekend. A News & Observer column said the race already is becoming “openly hostile.”

Brunswick Superior Court Judge Ola Mae Lewis told the event, “Our current Supreme Court is one of the lowest ranked Supreme Courts in the nation, ranked 36th by way of productivity.” She added, “My opponent having only written five opinions in the last year.”

Judge Lewis labeled herself the “most qualified candidate for the position” and “a natural born leader.” She concluded, “It is time to move North Carolina forward, not to be steeped in mediocrity and complacency.” Read more

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JAS Featured at Georgetown Law School Judicial Elections Event

Left to right: Seaton, Corriher and Clark delivered insightful information.

Left to right: Panelists Seaton, Corriher and Clark

Justice at Stake’s Deputy Executive Director Liz Seaton spoke on a panel today that discussed findings of a new report, “Judicial Selection and Death Penalty Decisions.” The report looks at how the election process affects judges and the decisions they make in death penalty cases.

Justice at Stake coauthored “The New Politics of Judicial Elections 2011-2012,” with the Brennan Center for Justice and the National Institute on Money in State Politics. It tracks at special interest spending and the impact of television ads on judicial elections.


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Candidates for N.C. Chief Justice Post Are Sparring Already

mark martinThis year’s North Carolina Supreme Court elections are warming up. Two candidates for Chief Justice, one an incumbent justice and one a lower court judge, are sparring already.

0307DRUGCOURT3.jpg“The office of chief justice is not a starter position,” Justice Mark Martin said in an interview, according to WECT. “There is a steep learning curve for members of the court.” He furnished the media outlet a letter from the state’s Historical Society declaring that never has a North Carolina chief justice been elected without serving as an associate justice first.

Brunswick County Superior Court Judge Ola Lewis said, “I am in no way a starter candidate.” She pointed to her service on the state bench for 21 years and she added, “I certainly hope my opponent does not feel entitled to be chief justice merely because he has served on a court that continues to decline in productivity.” Read more

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Commentary: How Much to ‘Buy Our Highest Court’ in North Carolina?

NORTH-CAROLINA-FLAG-300x224The aftermath of record-breaking, million-dollar spending in the North Carolina Supreme Court election for just one seat in 2012 informs a column this week by Doug Clark of the News & Record of Greensboro. Clark asks:

“Four seats are up before the voters this year. How much more money will flow in the race to buy our highest court?”

While he hopes this year’s spending will not increase a lot, and perhaps the contest will be more dignified than in 2012, Clark discusses his “concerns about big money in judicial elections” that have not gone away. They include “murky campaign finance disclosure laws” and the possibility that a justice re-elected in 2012 could end up ruling on matters involving Duke Energy. Read more

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Arkansas Case Raises Issues of Judicial Race Funding and Corruption

Gavel_and_moneyThe Arkansas Supreme Court, saying “the orderly administration of justice has been severely compromised, due, in part, to recusal issues” in a judicial circuit, reassigned the cases of a judge who is under investigation for campaign contributions he received earlier. The case is raising questions about corporate campaign spending and impartial justice.

The Arkansas high court also said it had been advised that court operations in the circuit had been disrupted, according to the Associated Press. Reassigned were cases on the docket of Circuit Judge Mike Maggio of Faulkner County.

Gavel Grab recently mentioned media reports that Judge Maggio was under investigation for a possible ethics breach in comments he made to a Louisiana State University fan website, and also in connection with campaign contributions made when he was a Court of Appeals candidate. He has withdrawn from that race.

The AP article said the contributions came from “political action committees linked to the owner of Greenbrier Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. Days after receiving the money in July, Maggio reduced a judgment against the nursing home in the death of a resident from $5.2 million to $1 million.” Read more

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From JAS-Moderated Tennessee Panel, Warnings of Justice at Risk

gavel_cash-300x202A panel of attorneys questioned at a Vanderbilt University Law School forum whether shifting to contested elections of appellate judges would put justice at risk in Tennessee. Justice at Stake’s Debra Erenberg, director of state affairs, moderated the panel.

Charles Grant, president of the Nashville Bar Association, warned about paving the way for big spending by special interests and cautioned that popular elections would prove “disastrous.” He said, “We don’t need any more examples than the ones we’ve all read about from around the country where popular elections have taken hold and special interests have dominated.”

“You’re going to see 30-second sound bites. You’re going to hear the sucking sound of money coming in to judicial candidates,” said Tom Lawless, chairman of the Governor’s Commission for Judicial Appointments, Read more

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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

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Campaign Donations to Judge Under Investigation in Arkansas

Circuit Judge Mike Maggio of Faulkner County, Arkansas recently bowed out of a campaign for the state Court of Appeals. His withdrawal came amid media reports he was under investigation for a possible ethics breach in comments he made to a Louisiana State University fan website.

Now the state Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission has confirmed that its investigation of Judge Maggio includes allegations including campaign contributions when he was a Court of Appeals candidate, according to

Judge Maggio reduced from $5.2 million to $1 million a damage award against a nursing home, and subsequently his campaign received $10,000 Read more

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North Carolina Judicial Candidates Forced on Campaign Trail

Judges vying for North Carolina’s State Supreme Court are in a somewhat awkward position, according to an article on the WFAE website.

Judicial candidates all face the same challenges when on the campaign trail – namely how to define their candidacy since they can’t use traditional campaign tactics.

“Promises aren’t allowed. I can’t talk about what I’m going to do. I’m actually prohibited specifically by the code of judicial conduct from promising to run a certain way on a case. That’s one thing we cannot do,” judicial candidate Robin Hudson said.

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‘Pay-to-Play’ System for Judge Candidates in Indiana County?

Cash-gavel-sold1A lengthy investigative report in the Indianapolis Star asks whether money paid by judicial candidates to get their political party’s endorsement in Marion County, Indiana’s largest county, may violate the state’s Code of Judicial Conduct.

The Star report says: “Critics say such contributions create the appearance of a pay-to-play system — one they feel is too heavily influenced by politics, veers perilously close to crossing ethical lines and could invite conflicts of interest on the bench. … They contend it is time to overhaul the system to remove the influence of politics and money.”

Among reforms suggested, the article says, are adoption of a merit-based judicial selection system for the county that is home to the state capital, Indianapolis; and disclosure and recusal rules. Read more

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