Gavel Grab

Retired Judge Laments ‘Worst Government That Money Can Buy’

jim-nelsonThe problem of money in politics has grown so big that it seems to be “on steroids” now, laments retired Montana Supreme Court Justice James Nelson in an outspoken Helena Independent Record op-ed.

Justice Nelson takes direct aim at a line of U.S. Supreme Court cases beginning with Citizens United, saying the problem of big money overwhelming actual voters has become so great that what once was unimaginable is almost possible.

“So, what’s next?” he writes. “Will corporations and special interest PACs eventually get the right to actually vote? Why not? They’re already funding the worst government that money can buy.” Read more

No comments

TV Report: In Heated TN Judicial Election, What Can Voters Believe?

TennesseeIn a white-hot judicial election where opposing sides are engaged in an air war with claims and counter-claims, where can the public turn to shape an informed opinion?

In advance of the Tennessee Supreme Court retention election Aug. 7, News Channel 5 poses that question, then answers it with a lengthy article about a report evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of all 23 judges up for retention, prepared by the Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission (JPEC), a largely Republican state panel.

Three Supreme Court justices, who were appointed by a Democratic governor, are seeking a new term. Their opposition is led by certain Republicans who want to remove Democrat appointees from the court. The evaluation commission recommended retaining the three but did not issue endorsements, according to News Channel 5. Read more

No comments


Christie’s Record On Judges Coming Under Attack in New Hampshire

NJ Gov And RGA Chairman Chris Christie Appears With Iowa's Governor At Davenport FairgroundsAs a potential Republican presidential candidate prepared to visit New Hampshire, there was another sign that the intersection of politics and choosing qualified judges could become a national topic in 2016.

CNN reported that the Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative group, was preparing to launch on Wednesday a TV ad that criticizes New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie over his judicial nominations record. Judicial Crisis Network similarly ran advertising critical of Christie in Iowa earlier this month (see Gavel Grab).

“Chris Christie promised to change New Jersey’s liberal Supreme Court. Over and over he broke his promise. The court remains liberal. Call Chris Christie. Tell him to fight for judges who respect the rule of law,” a narrator says in the commercial prepared for New Hampshire’s airwaves. Read more

No comments


Wednesday Gavel Grab Briefs

In these other dispatches about fair and impartial courts:

  • In a 2-1 ruling, a panel of the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said a Mississippi law could not be used to close down the only abortion clinic operating in the state by requiring that its physicians get privileges to admit patients at local hospitals, the New York Times reported.
  • Lawyers for Abigail Fisher, a white University of Texas applicant whose lawsuit against the university led to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, asked the full Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider a new ruling by a three-judge panel that the university can consider race in its admissions, according to SCOTUSblog.
  • The Los Angeles Times reported, “Criticism arises after children are rushed to see immigration judges.”
No comments

Another Push Ahead to Change Kansas Court Selection Method?

KS-Supreme-Court-logo200Legislators interested in changing the way Kansas Supreme Court justices are selected seized on a court ruling that overturned death penalty sentences handed two brothers in a notorious quadruple killing (see Gavel Grab).

The ruling “will likely fuel another push by conservative Republicans to give the governor and legislators more say in how the justices are chosen,” the Associated Press reported.

Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce, a Republican, said that when legislators return to work in January, judicial selection will “absolutely” be a topic given the court rulings last week. He said the rulings were not surprising.

“There will always be cries for the heads of judges when they make difficult and unpopular rulings,” said Rep. John Carmichael, a Democrat.  ”It’s an imperative that we have independent courts.” Read more

No comments


Law Professor Confirmed for Federal Appeals Bench

On a 50-43 vote, the Senate confirmed President Obama’s nomination of Pamela Harris, a visiting professor at Georgetown University Law Center, to the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

According to The Hill newspaper, Republican Sen. Charles W. Grassley of Iowa opposed the nomination and said Harris’s pre-nomination record was full of “left-wing philosophy.” Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., defended the nomination while praising Harris’s qualifications and describing her as an “extraordinarily talented person.”

No comments

Cady: How One Court Responded After Its Judges Were Attacked

cady1-300x224Almost four years after a political earthquake shook Iowa’s Supreme Court, Chief Justice Mark Cady says the benefits of the court’s subsequent outreach efforts — including holding oral arguments around the state, followed by well-attended public receptions — are “immeasurable.”

Justice Cady, in his keynote address to a Fair Courts State Summit hosted by Justice at Stake, described his court’s efforts to teach Iowans about its work and its role protecting people’s constitutional rights. The court has heard oral arguments in 13 communities since 2011, often considering locally originated appeals, and justices have visited with 100 high schools, colleges, and universities, he said.

There have been meetings with local newspaper editorial boards, and public receptions after the oral arguments in communities away from Des Moines, he said. While working on the road is less efficient, he said, “the benefits are immeasurable.”

“Lawyers and business leaders have joined hands in this effort, and together we’re beginning to strengthen and open up understanding, while giving the public a better perspective to see through unfair attacks against judges,” Justice Cady said. He has been credited with leading the outreach effort. Read more

No comments


TN Election TV Ad Spending Soars, and JAS is Quoted

Sales-Tax-money-gavelSpending on TV ads for and against the retention of three incumbent Tennessee Supreme Court justices has surpassed a record-setting $500,000. reported the totals, quoting from Justice at Stake monitoring of election spending.

In advance of the Aug. 7 election, the anti-retention Tennessee Forum has spent at least $246,475 on TV advertising, and Keep Tennessee Courts Fair, a joint campaign for the justices, has spent at least $209,955.

It is not known exactly who is funding the Tennessee Forum’s campaign, according to Keep Tennessee Courts Fair has come in for criticism for fundraising from lawyers who may appear in court before the justices. There was additional coverage of the TV ad spending race from the Nashville Business Journal.

The Columbia Daily Herald, meanwhile, quoted concerns raised by Justice at Stake and by the Brennan Center for Justice, a JAS partner organization. Read more

No comments


Another Appeals Court Strikes Down a Marriage Ban

In a 2-1 ruling, a panel of the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held unconstitutional on Monday Virginia’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples. The panel upheld a lower court ruling (see Gavel Grab).

Two federal appeals courts now have found such state bans unconstitutional since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act in U.S. v. Windsor last year.

“We recognize that same-sex marriage makes some people deeply uncomfortable,” said appeals Judge Henry F. Floyd in Monday’s ruling, according to The Washington Post. “However, inertia and apprehension are not legitimate bases for denying same-sex couples due process and equal protection of the laws. Civil marriage is one of the cornerstones of our way of life.” Read more

No comments

In Missouri Locality, a Judicial Election Based on … Merit?

justice-scalesHigh praise for a contested judicial election where the candidates shun negative attacks and instead emphasize their qualifications?

It’s rare, but Gavel Grab has located such a contest for a local judgeship in Boone County, Missouri, where former Missouri Bar president Skip Walther writes that “each candidate’s judicial campaign speaks to their potential quality as a judge, and based solely on that metric, each of the candidates is qualified.”

Walther wrote a piece for the Columbia Tribune that extols the conduct of the local judicial race while pointing out that in his view, it’s pretty exceptional:

“Make no mistake: Our local judicial campaigns are not ordinary. With almost $30 million in TV spending on judicial campaigns in 2012 alone, negative advertising is becoming commonplace. Fortunately, Missouri appellate judges and large metropolitan trial judges are appointed rather than elected, so we are spared the nastiness on a statewide level that is so prevalent in states such as Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Alabama and West Virginia.” Read more

No comments


Next Page »