Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Judicial Elections' Category

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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Tied Judicial Election Settled by Toss of a Coin

Coin_TossA coin toss to determine the winner in a tied race for a local judgeship?

It happened in McKinley County, New Mexico, and it was blasted around the nation via Associated Press and UPI articles. It even made the ABC News weird stories wire.

Kenneth Howard Jr. and Robert Baca each got exactly 2,879 votes in a recount of the early June Democratic primary for magistrate judge. There was no Republican candidate. Because state law says a tie must be decided by lot, the ultimate outcome was reached by coin toss.

Howard won the coin toss and the magistrate judge’s job for a four-year term. A Washington Post blog said 35 states have rules to determine tied elections by the flip of a coin or some other means of chance.

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Former Judicial Candidate Challenges Kentucky’s Ethics Rules

Kentucky_quarter,_reverse_side,_2001Former judicial candidate Robert Winter Jr. of Kentucky is suing in a federal court to overturn Kentucky ethics rules governing what a candidate running for judge can say.

He filed the lawsuit, according to a Louisville Courier-Journal article, after Kentucky’s Judicial Conduct Commission had sent him a letter notifying Winter of three anonymous complaints lodged against him, and asking that he respond.

The complaints accused Winter of identifying his political party (Republican) and the political party of his rivals (Democratic) and of misleading voters by portraying a judicial election as a partisan contest, the Associated Press said.  When running in a primary, he had sent out mailers naming his party and that of his foes.

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