Gavel Grab

Justice Karmeier Criticizes ‘Smear Campaign’ Waged Against Him

Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier, who narrowly won retention when voters went to the polls in November (see Gavel Grab), has criticized those who funded a costly ouster campaign.

At an awards event for another judge, Justice Karmeier called the effort “a smear campaign of the worst sort and a direct challenge to the integrity and independence of the courts,” according to the Madison-St. Clair (Il.) Record.

He said the anti-retention drive came from “a handful of lawyers from Chicago and from some other states who stood to profit financially by reshaping the makeup of the court.” Read more

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Editorials Scrutinize Big Spending in Judicial Elections

I-Am-a-Money-Magnet-the-secret-23316442-500-372Citing Missouri billionaire Rex Sinquefield’s $300,000 donation to a Washington, D.C. group that tried to defeat a local Missouri judge, a St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial asks Sinquefield for more transparency and less deceit.

In an editorial styled as a letter to Sinquefield, the editorial board asks, “Could you please instruct your vast army of political operatives to stop being deceitful about how they spend your money?” It acknowledges that on some issues it agrees philosophically with the activist donor, but “When you — or the people who work for you — secretly funnel money into Washington, D.C., political action committees to hide the source of the funds, it looks really sneaky and underhanded.”

The letter refers to money Sinquefield gave to the Republican State Leadership Committee and its spending that amount and more to defeat Cole County Circuit Judge Pat Joyce, who ultimately won reelection in November (see Gavel Grab). It says “your spokespeople wouldn’t fess up. Neither would the RSLC.” Read more

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Commentary Urges Transparency in Funding Illinois Court Races

In a Chicago Tribune op-ed, lawyer Robert A. Clifford says he and other attorneys who contributed heavily to oppose the retention of Illinois Justice Lloyd Karmeier did so with public disclosure, whereas those who bankrolled Karmeier in 2004 and this year were cloaked in secrecy.

iStock_000015670171Small1“Insurance companies and large corporations have funneled money through organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce so that the specific identities of the donors remain anonymous. Voters can’t find out who funneled money to the organizations for those purposes,” Clifford writes.

“How can voters make an informed decision about who should be on the Illinois courts if they don’t have all of the facts?”

A day ago, Gavel Grab mentioned Clifford’s efforts to depose Justice Karmeier in connection with a racketeering lawsuit against State Farm. The lawsuit contends that the insurance company funded a multimillion-dollar campaign a decade ago to elect Karmeier to the Supreme Court. Read more

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Will Judge be Deposed by Lawyer Who Tried to Defeat Him?

Could an attorney who invested $150,000 in an unsuccessful effort to defeat Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier end up deposing him in a client’s case?

A Madison-St. Clair (Il.) Record article raises that possibility in reporting on a pledge by Chicago lawyer Robert Clifford to act with courtesy if he is allowed to depose the jurist. Justice Karmeier has asked a federal magistrate to block or limit the deposition, and Clifford made his statement to the magistrate in opposition to Justice Karmeier’s stance. Read more

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Editorial: Economic Reasons for Alabama to Switch to Merit

2003_AL_ProofAn economic analysis supportive of replacing partisan judicial elections with a merit selection system ought to “resonate” with Republican supermajorities in the Alabama legislature, a Montgomery Advertiser editorial says.

The analysis of John A. Dove of Troy University in Alabama was the subject of a recent Gavel Grab post. Dove asserts that Alabama’s legal system is overrun by politics, and it would help boost the economy and job creation to reduce politics in the courtroom by replacing partisan judicial elections with merit selection.

The editorial notes that that it is far from that newspaper’s first to call for consideration of merit selection, but philosophical arguments have not won over legislators. Perhaps an economic argument will have greater influence, it says: Read more

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Candidate Requests Recount in N.C. Supreme Court Race

It is official: lawyer Mike Robinson has requested a recount of votes in his challenge to North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Cheri Beasley, whom he trails.

According to the Associated Press, with nearly 2.5 million votes cast in North Carolina, Justice Beasley leads Robinson by about 5,400 votes.

In another close election, Illinois Justice Lloyd Karmeier sought retention and secured 60.68 percent of votes counted on election night, the Madison-St. Clair Record reported. He needed 60 percent to win a new term. Outstanding ballots are to be counted by Tuesday, and the newspaper quoted an election attorney it hired as saying she doubted a challenge to his retention will be mounted.

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Defender of Retained Judge Blasts Ouster Campaign as ‘Immoral’

Screen-shot-2014-10-22-at-1.30.33-PMA  costly campaign to unseat Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier, heavily financed by plaintiffs’ attorneys with litigation before his court, included harshly negative robocalls and printed matter, a newspaper reports.

Illlinois voters retained Justice Karmeier on Election Day. The Madison-St. Clair Record, quoting from an interview with the judge’s friend and defender state Sen. Dave Leuchtefeld, said one robocall involved a self-described “conservative” calling for the unseating of “liberal” Karmeier. There was printed matter distributed to Republican households likening the judge to such “corrupt” Democratic politicians as former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Read more

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Challenger Likely to Seek Recount in N.C. Court Contest

Although Justice Cheri Beasley of the North Carolina Supreme Court has racked up more votes in an unofficial count than her challenger, attorney Mike Robinson, he intends to ask for a recount, the Associated Press reported.

Justice Beasley was leading by slightly more than 3,000 votes in the unofficial count, the AP said. She had 50.07 percent of the votes and Robinson 49.93 percent, according to the News & Observer, which noted that Justice Beasley was one of three candidates targeted by the Republican State Leadership Committee, all of whom “emerged as victors.” Read more

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Justice Karmeier Fends Off Anti-Retention Effort in Illinois

KARMEIERJustice Lloyd Karmeier has tentatively been retained for a new 10-year term on the Illinois Supreme Court after an expensive race, according to The Madison-St. Clair Record.

In order to be retained, a justice must receive at least 60 percent voter approval in a yes-or-no election. Karmeier is shown to have received 60.71 percent yes votes. Provisional ballots are still to be counted, but projections still foresee retention of Justice Karmeier.

TV ad spending for and against the retention of Justice Karmeier hit $1.7 million, a record for retention elections in Illinois. Campaign for 2016, a group heavily supported by trial lawyers, spent over $1.1 million against his retention, according to a Justice at Stake and Brennan Center for Justice analysis.  The Republican State Leadership Committee, a national political organization, spent over $960,000 on TV advertising and phone banking in support of Karmeier.

Read more

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Restore Public Financing for Judicial Campaigns: N.C. Opinion

NORTH-CAROLINA-FLAG-300x224The 2014 North Carolina Supreme Court election is unprecedented in the past 15 years for the raw political power and record big money involved, including more than $3 million raised by the candidates for four seats, writes an opinion columnist who urges a return to public financing of judicial campaigns.

“This is happening across the country,” adds Tim White in his Fayetteville Observer column. “Tens of millions of dollars are being poured into court contests as political influence groups try to buy judicial seats. And the very same people doing the pouring may someday later show up before the judges they helped buy. Those judges are human, and the possibility of money turning the tide of a crucial case is a chilling specter.”

North Carolina’s legislature killed the state’s public financing program for judicial campaigns last year. Now, White says, PAC money and advocacy groups’ “dark money” are flowing into the election contest, and the case for restoring public Read more

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