Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Judicial Elections' Category

Article Spotlights 'Stealth Campaign to Buy America's Courts'

law-cash-21816475The latest national publication spotlighting efforts of special interest groups to put their stamp on state courts through judicial elections is The Nation, in a lengthy article that quotes Justice at Stake and a partner organization.

The Nation article focuses in part on on the Republican State Leadership Committee, a national partisan organization, that has channeled money into multiple state judicial elections and at least one local election so far. It’s entitled, “The Stealth Campaign to Buy America’s Courts.”

“With ideological groups increasingly eager to buy seats on state-level benches, judges are forced to act more like politicians, turning to lawyers and other parties who may later appear before them in court to raise campaign cash,” the article reports in mentioning dangers of the current trends. Read more

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Study Looks at Judicial Elections and Environmental Rulings

With North Carolina voters asked to choose four state Supreme Court justices on Nov. 4, a Facing South article cites a legal scholar’s new study as a way of illustrating how crucial elections can be to a court’s rulings on environmental law.

“Over the last fifteen years, in every instance in which the [North Carolina] Court has reviewed a major environmental law issue, the Court has sided with the anti-environmental protection side of the dispute,” John Echeverria of Vermont Law School writes in the study. The state’s high court, he says, “has become a virtual sinkhole for environmental law.” Here is an abstract of the study: Read more

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On Campaign Trail, Kansas Court Ruling a Hot Topic

Sam Brownback, Paul DavisThe final, contentious weeks of the political season are seeing heated debate in Kansas over the state Supreme Court’s voiding death penalty sentences handed two brothers in a notorious quadruple killing. The brothers still face life prison terms in a separate killing.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback on Thursday endorsed removing two of the justices in the 6-1 court majority in the case, the Associated Press said; the pair, Justices Eric Rosen and Lee Johnson, are the only court members standing for retention in November. Republican Party Chairman called for defeating the two justices.

“I support the families and what they’re pushing — the non-retention vote,” Brownback said. Family members of some of the crime spree victims are advocating against retention of the justices. Brownback is running for reelection, and his campaign has begun a TV ad critical of the Supreme Court and saying opponent Paul Davis stands with “liberal judges who let the Carr brothers off the hook.” Read more

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TV Ad Spending in Judicial Elections Climbs to $9.1 Million

TV ad spending in state judicial elections has exceeded $9.1 million so far this year, Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice said on Friday.

JAS-LogoIn the general elections that will be concluded on Nov. 4,  political parties, outside groups, and judicial candidates have spent more than $6.1 million on TV ads. When coupled with estimates for supreme court primaries and off-cycle elections, the total is more than $8.8 million.

20100304214046_Brennan_Logo_2007_small (3)With political parties and outside groups accounting for nearly 63 percent of TV ad spending since January, they have dominated judicial election spending this year. In the forefront of TV ad spending in judicial election battleground states is Michigan, with more than $2.9 million spent on TV ads to date, the groups said in a news release. Read more

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Americans for Prosperity Joins Montana High Court Race

Americans for Prosperity has jumped into a Montana Supreme Court race, joining three other outside groups spending to influence the outcome of the contentious contest on Nov. 4.

horizontalblack-17The Missoulian reported that Americans for Prosperity-Montana has begun airing TV and radio ads critical of incumbent Justice Mike Wheat, who is facing challenger Lawrence VanDyke. Americans for Prosperity was founded by billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch. The Montana branch of the national groups is initially spending $85,000 on ads in opposition to Justice Wheat.

The advertising says the justice “has a history of supporting extreme, partisan measures” and cites his actions in the legislature as well as a dissent he issued when on the bench. Justice Wheat fired back that the advertising was “pure politics,” amounted to “garbage” and did not truly indicate his judicial record or character. Read more

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Illinois System for Choosing Judges 'Breaking Down': JAS

2003_IL_ProofWith independent spending against an Illinois Supreme Court justice rising in his retention election, Justice at Stake called attention to the situation and said, “The system for picking judges in Illinois is breaking down.”

Lloyd Karmeier’s 2004 fight against Gordon Maag for the Supreme Court set spending records at the time. Now Justice Karmeier is facing opposition in his retention bid from a group called Campaign for 2016. You can learn about the individuals funding it from earlier Gavel Grab posts.

“Interest groups are trying to buy courts, judges are raising money from parties who appear before them, and potential conflicts of interest are multiplying.  It’s no wonder that the public believes that justice is for sale,” JAS Executive Director Bert Brandenburg said in a statement on Thursday. Read more

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Has 'New Era of Legalized Influence-Peddling' Dawned in Courtroom?

Released close to Election Day, a new report that correlates attack ads accusing judges of being “soft-on-crime” and the judges’ decision-making is sparking discussion in the blogosphere.

Esquire’s Politics Blog with Charles P. Pierce devoted a lengthy post to the report by two Emory University Law School professors and the American Constitution Society, saying it “shows quite clearly that, in states where the judges are elected, the same dismal infection that has sickened our politics in the other two branches of government, has set in quite virulently in the third as well.”

Pierce lamented that the report reflects how “the new era of legalized influence-peddling encouraged by Citizens United and by McCutcheon has dawned in the courtroom as well, with easily predicted results.” To document the increasingly important role of outside spending in judicial elections, he relies on a report last year by Justice at Stake and partner organizations. Read more

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Outside Money, Partisanship are Issues in Montana Court Race

montana_supreme_courtThe politics and money in a testy race for the Montana Supreme Supreme Court are threatening to overwhelm other issues. That’s a conclusion that can be drawn from an Associated Press article entitled, “Montana Supreme Court race takes on partisan edge.”

The challenger is former state solicitor general Lawrence VanDyke. He is “trying to cast Justice Mike Wheat as a liberal activist judge as his Republican backers pour tens of thousands of dollars into ads to support that message,” the AP said.

Justice Wheat retorted, “Our court system is under attack from out-of-state money. When it’s over, I guess they will spend somewhere around $1 million. Why in the heck would they do that? Because they want a court that is not fair and balanced, a court that is going to make decisions more to their liking.” Read more

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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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