Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Judicial Elections' Category

Karmeier Supporter Fires Back at Foes of Judge’s Retention

Screen shot 2014-10-22 at 1.30.33 PMIllinois state Sen. Dave Leuchtefeld, a friend and supporter of Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier, said opposition to the justice’s retention has been headed up by plaintiffs’ attorneys who stand to benefit if the court rules their way in two class-action cases.

“For these attorneys, it’s just like putting money in the stock market. It’s an investment,” Leuchtefeld told the Belleville News-Democrat. Earlier this week, Gavel Grab mentioned TV advertising critical of Justice Karmeier aired by a group calling itself Campaign for 2016. According to the News-Democrat, “The anti-Karmeier commercial slams him for accepting campaign donations from businesses during his 2004 election campaign and ‘letting corporations buy justice.’” Read more

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More Attention for Study on Attack Ads and Judges’ Decisions

Ad Aired in North Carolina Supreme Court Primary

Ad Aired in North Carolina Supreme Court Primary

A new study showing a correlation between attack ads accusing judicial candidates of being “soft-on-crime” and individual judges’ decisions (see Gavel Grab) is getting national circulation.

The study by the American Constitution Society and Emory Law School researchers was summed up this way by the McClatchy Newspapers’ Washington Bureau:

“The more judicial ads that run, the more likely state supreme court justices are to vote against criminal appeals, the study … found. Any judges ruling on criminal cases might second-guess their decisions for fear of such ads being used during their own campaigns, analysts think.” Read more

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Article: Group Against Retention of Karmeier Spends $561,700

An outside group calling itself Campaign for 2016 has spent $561,700 for TV advertising in opposition to Justice Lloyd Karmeier of the Illinois Supreme Court, who is seeking retention to a new 10-year term, according to the Madison-St. Clair Record.

George Zelcs, who practices law in Chicago and is associated with attorney Stephen Tillery of St. Louis, gave $300,000 to Campaign for 2016 in mid-October, the newspaper said.

The newspaper said Tillery “was on the losing end” of a major case involving Philip Morris. It continued, “In 2005, Karmeier was one of four justices who voted to overturn a class action judgment of about $10 billion in Price v. Philip Morris. Tillery would stand to collect approximately $1.8 billion in fees from the case.” Read more

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Will Irish Surname Affect Election for Ohio Supreme Court?

What’s in a name? There’s a debate about that in an Ohio Supreme Court race. An Associated Press article puts it this way:

“Call it the hunt for Irish ‘ayes’: Republicans charge that Democrats are trying to paint the ballot green in an Ohio Supreme Court race by recruiting a candidate based solely on his Irish last name.”

The candidate is Cuyahoga County Judge John O’Donnell. He is challenging Justice Judy French. In a GOP ad she is called “Judge Judi” to snag some of the popularity of “Judge Judy” on TV. Read more

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Study: Judicial Decision-Making Affected by ‘Soft-on-Crime’ Ads

From Ad in Illinois Court Campaign

From Ad in Past Illinois Court Campaign

A new study by Emory Law School researchers and the American Constitution Society finds evidence that TV ads attacking state supreme court candidates for being “soft on crime” make judges less likely to side with criminal defendants, the New York Times reported.

The Times article noted regarding any individual justice’s response, “Since state supreme courts are multi-judge panels, it’s not clear how often the changes in their voting behavior would alter the overall ruling in specific cases.” Here are the two principal findings from the study:

  • “The more TV ads aired during state supreme court judicial elections in a state, the less likely justices are to vote in favor of criminal defendants. As the number of airings increases, the marginal effect of an increase in TV ads grows. In a state with 10,000 ads, a doubling of airings is associated on average with an 8 percent increase in justices’ voting against a criminal defendant’s appeal. Read more
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Washington Post Editorial: End Judicial Elections Now

citizens-united“[T]he courtroom is becoming the next frontier in rancorous political division” in the era of Citizens United, and the best answer for addressing the threat to impartial justice is to eliminate judicial elections entirely, a Washington Post editorial declares.

The editorial builds its case by citing both recent history and more recent developments. Linking to a report by Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice, it prominently notes that in the past judicial election cycle, outside groups spent a record $24 million on state judicial elections.

Touching on this year’s judicial elections, it focuses on the high-spending Republican State Leadership Committee, which has discussed spending $5 million on judicial contests to advance conservative candidates, and on the battleground states the RSLC has engaged in or targeted. Read more

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‘Back to the Wild West,’ Campaigning N.C. Justice Says

Justice Hudson

Justice Hudson

After North Carolina’s legislature repealed last year the state’s public financing program for judicial campaigns, “We’re kind of back to the Wild West,” said an incumbent justice seeking reelection. The National Journal article that features her concerns zeroes in on judicial candidates forced to become more like partisan politicians, and it quotes Justice at Stake.

“I’ve basically got two full-time jobs: A full-time job running a campaign. And a full-time job on the court. I’ve had to spend time on the phone when I can,” raising money, incumbent Justice Robin Hudson told National Journal for its vividly detailed article. “It’s awful.” She was the justice who made the “Wild West” remark.

Another dimension of big-spending judicial elections is a question of partiality that can arise when a judicial campaign accepts money from lawyers or law firms who later may appear before the judge. Reporter James Oliphant notes that at a multi-candidate forum, candidate and incumbent Justice Robert Hunter asked for both votes and financial support and added, “I look forward to seeing you in court.”

“At every turn,” the article states, “the candidates have encountered hand-wringing over money and influence. They insist they’re judges and lawyers first, pols second. But they’ve been dragged into a system that, across the country, increasingly blurs those lines. ‘We want judges to be different, but we’ve thrown them into this political blender where they’re just like any politician,’ says Bert Brandenburg, executive director of Justice at Stake.” Read more

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Karmeier Campaign Says Foe is ‘Shadow’ Group

Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier, seeking a new term in a retention (yes-or-no) election, is facing more than half a million dollars in opposition spending by a “shadow” group, according to a Karmeier campaign press release that is the subject of a Madison-St. ClairRecord article.

The group is named Campaign for 2016. “This is a complete shadow organization, because their leadership and funding sources are unknown,” said Karmeier’s campaign committee manager, Ron Deedrick. So far the incumbent’s campaign has raised $121,100 in individual campaign donations, according to the article.

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Supreme Court Case: How to Balance Free Speech, Judicial Ethics

supreme_court_building_515The Supreme Court’s agreeing to consider a former judicial candidate’s challenge of her reprimand in Florida, for personally soliciting campaign donations in violation of a judicial ethics rule (see Gavel Grab), is getting increased attention.

The court’s taking up Williams-Yulee vs. The Florida Bar has helped place Lanell Williams-Yulee in a “controversy that pits democracy and free speech against judicial ethics and due process,” Mark Joseph Stern writes at Slate. 

Stern’s judgment of where the high court will end up is summed up in the commentary’s headline: “Justice for Sale: The Supreme Court is poised to make judicial elections even more corrupt.” Read more

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Two Kansas Justices Face Anti-Retention Effort Over Ruling

Justice Rosen

Justice Rosen

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to consider throwing out a Kansas Supreme Court ruling that struck down death penalty sentences handed two brothers in a notorious quadruple killing (see Gavel Grab).

Petitions to reinstate death penalties for Jonathan and Reginald Carr were filed with the nation’s highest court this week, according to the Wichita Eagle. The state Supreme Court’s voiding three of each man’s four capital murder convictions generated controversy, and now, some of the victims’ kin have created an organization devoted to defeating in November two of the justices who participated in the ruling. The group is called Kansans for Justice.

Justice Johnson

Justice Johnson

Only Justices Lee Johnson and Eric Rosen, of the court’s seven members, are on the retention (up-or-down) ballot, according to a different Wichita Eagle article. 

Mark Befort, brother of one of the victims, told the newspaper of the devastating pain his family suffered in both the crime spree and through re-living it when the defendants were tried in court. He said the state’s highest court “has voted to either eliminate these verdicts or force all of the family members and surviving victims to have to once again re-live those crimes in court, or see these guilty verdicts erased. Read more

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