Archive for the 'Judicial Elections' Category
Will Pennsylvania see the next serious push to remove a state Supreme Court justice in a retention (yes-or-no) election? Two reform activists want to make that happen.
Eric Epstein and Tim Potts unveiled on Monday a self-funded report critical of Chief Justice Ronald Castille’s management of the state’s judicial system and of his handling of some cases, and arguing that voters must “put the ‘no’ in November” on their ballots, according to an Associated Press article.
Justice Castille said the findings presented by the activists were “slanted,” according to Watchdog.org. He told the Morning Call that the collection of newspaper clippings released to news media gave only part of the story — the negative part — without addressing his actions to fix scandals or other problems. He also called Epstein and Potts “known gadflies” who “represent a point of view.”
“They’re just looking at the headlines saying that I’m responsible for every negative thing that happened in the court over the last six years that I’ve been Chief Justice, which is an impossibility,” he said, according to a WESA FM news report. “There’s 15,000 court employees.”
Epstein and Potts played roles in a successful drive to repeal a controversial government pay-raise law passed in 2005. Their report touched on issues including a juvenile justice corruption scandal in Luzerne County, oversight of the Philadelphia Read more
A grassroots group will be calling for the ouster of Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Ron Castille in a fall retention (up-or-down) election, a Philadelphia Daily News column said.
The column by John Baer said a Harrisburg-based group called Rock the Capital was planning release on Monday of a report outlining why it believes voters should not retain Justice Castille.
The same group successfully sought the ouster of a state Supreme Court justice in 2005. Similar efforts in 2007 and in 2011 were defeated easily.
Justice Castille told the newspaper he did not think individual rulings and other controversies should be adopted as a sole measure for judicial performance.
When public defender Ed Sheehy (photo right) was running for a seat on the Montana Supreme Court in 2012, an organization listed as the Montana Growth Network sent out mailers accusing him of being “soft on crime.” Sheehy had won the primary race, but went on to lose the general election in November, reports the Redlands Daily Facts.
Sheehy blames the mailers for his defeat, but due to Montana’s campaign disclosure laws, he was not able to find out who funded the organization. Before the primary, the Montana Growth Network endorsed District Judge Laurie McKinnon (photo below left), the article says, and she later went on to win the election.
A third candidate, attorney Elizabeth Best, spent the most money on her campaign of the three candidates. She told the Center for Public Integrity that she was “stunned” by the outcome. Read more
Not only has former Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice written a book (see Gavel Grab) that alleges corruption by the state’s highest court. Now another former chief justice has called for the court “to dig itself out of the ditch of partisan politics,” Detroit Free Press columnist Brian Dickerson writes.
Former Chief Justice Thomas Brennan, who left the high court in 1973 to found the Thomas E. Cooley Law School, made his call in a recent speech. He strongly supported a sweeping judicial election reform plan outlined by a bipartisan task force in April 2012 (see Gavel Grab) and urged current justices to lobby for it.
“It is time for the Supreme Court of Michigan to step up and do something,” Brennan said at an event with sitting justices in the audience. “It is time for the Supreme Court to dig itself out of the ditch of partisan politics.”
Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor’s call to scrap political party labels for judicial candidates in primaries (see Gavel Grab) “is big enough by itself to launch a good debate,” a Canton (Ohio) Repository editorial says.
Justice O’Connor recently delivered a speech unveiling an eight-point plan for reforming Ohio judicial elections, and holding nonpartisan primaries was a central point. Another suggestion is for the state Senate to confirm gubernatorial appointees to the Ohio Supreme Court.
The editorial states, “The eight changes O’Connor proposed last week should start an important conversation across the state.” Other media coverage included Ohio Public Radio, ”Chief Justice of Ohio Supreme Court Has Ideas for Reforming Process of Electing Judges; and Cincinnati.com, “Judge: Take politics out of our races.”
The Texas Senate State Affairs Committee approved a bill on May 3 that would “end straight ticket voting for the state’s judicial offices,” states Gavel to Gavel.
Straight ticket ballots allow voters to select all candidates belonging to a political party, including judges. Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson has argued for ending the practice in recent years, the blog says.
Some argue that it has caused Texas counties to clear their bench entirely of one political party or another.
“Party affiliation has no place in judicial elections, period,” declared Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor at the State Bar Association’s annual convention this week.
The Associated Press reports that O’Connor unveiled an eight-point plan for reforming Ohio’s judicial elections. Primarily, she recommended ending partisan primary races for judges.
“Now is the time to revisit this topic once and for all, not to do away with judicial elections, which voters made clear they want, but to strengthen them,” O’Connor said.
State Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill argues that O’Connor’s plan ignores the critical issue in judicial races: campaign contributions. Read more
As North Carolina lawmakers prepare to strike down the state’s public financing program for judicial elections, the public has voiced support for the program. According to a new poll commissioned by the North Carolina Center for Voter Education, 68 percent of voters favor the program.
According to a Charlotte Observer opinion, all judicial candidates in last year’s elections took part in the public finance program.
Former Govs. Jim Holshouser, a Republican, and Jim Hunt, a Democrat, joined in a letter urging state lawmakers to preserve public funding (see Gavel Grab). “It frees judges from the endless money chase and prevents the appearance that justice is for sale,” they wrote.
Opponents of the program argue that it costs too much for the taxpayers, even though it is almost entirely funded by fees paid to the North Carolina State Bar, according to the opinion. Public financing protects “judicial candidates from the detrimental effects of increasingly large amounts of money” being spent to sway the outcomes of elections, it declares. Read more
On Friday, Louisiana’s Judicial Campaign Oversight Committee declared that Jefferson Parish judicial candidate Hilary Landry violated the state’s Code of Judicial Conduct.
The panel stated that Landry’s campaign flier contained a misleading claim about a case involving her opponent, Scott Schlegel, the Associated Press reports.
Landry’s campaign lawyer, Tom Owen, defended the flier under Landry’s First Amendment right to criticize Schlegel.
Schlegel and Landry went head to head in a runoff election on Saturday. According to WWL-TV News, Schlegel won 67 percent of the vote, and Landry received 33 percent.
WWWL-TV political analyst Clancy DuBos said that Landry was expected to win in an earlier primary, and “she ran second and it wasn’t that close. So when you’re second and you have a lot of money, you need to go on the attack.
Hugh Caperton’s longtime battle with the former A.T. Massey Coal Company, which resulted in a landmark 2009 Supreme Court decision about runaway judicial election spending and impartial courts, isn’t fading into history.
The conflict and the role of Caperton’s two Pittsburgh attorneys is the topic of a book scheduled for publication soon, called “The Price of Justice.” It presents a compelling tale that is sympathetic to Caperton, according to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette review.
The book by Laurence Leamer also delivers a decidedly unsympathetic view of the West Virginia Supreme Court. Regarding businessman Caperton’s legal dispute with then-Massey Chief Executive Officer Don Blankenship, the review says:
“With a careful attention to detail, Mr. Leamer chronicles intrigue inside the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, which three times took up Massey’s appeal of the $50 million awarded to [Caperton's] Harman Development. From Justice Elliott ‘Spike’ Maynard, who vacationed with Mr. Blankenship on the Riviera then ruled with the majority in throwing out the $50 million verdict against Massey, to Justice Brent Benjamin, who refused to recuse himself Read more