Special interests seeking favorable court rulings are behind a sustained and “targeted attack on the judicial system” in court elections, Georgia Chief Justice Carol Hunstein told an audience at a Florida Bar annual convention. She said Florida may be next.
Justice at Stake Executive Director Bert Brandenburg told the bar audience that soaring spending in judicial elections has extended to merit retention elections. Brandenburg and Justice Hunstein addressed the Choosing Our Judges seminar at the annual convention, according to a Florida Bar News article.
“We believe the rapid and radical transformation of judicial elections is the biggest democracy issue that most Americans are not hearing about,” Brandenburg warned.
Brandenburg said much of the recent spending on state Supreme Court elections comes from out-of-state groups. In the most recent elections, 40 percent of the money in these election contests came from just 10 groups, he said.
Justice Hunstein said a business group found a challenger to run against her in 2006, then gave $1.2 million to a political action committee to back the challenger. If she had lost, she said, then “every judge in the state of Georgia would have been intimidated.”
In Florida, three justices will be on a retention (up-or-down) ballot in the fall. They already have been targeted by conservative groups and out-of-state groups.
“You’re going to see big money come into this state [in retention elections], so it’s time for you to wake up,” Justice Hunstein said. “This is a historic and incredibly important moment.”