Gavel Grab

Column Faults ‘Despicable’ Attack on Arkansas Courts

Arkansas_quarter_reverse_side_2003It is time for citizens who are concerned about protecting fair and impartial courts to stand up and denounce “vile smears” and other attacks on the courts, a Lambda Legal official warns in a column for SDGLN.com (San Diego Gay and Lesbian News).

The column by Eric Lesh, fair courts project manager for Lambda Legal, is headlined, “The despicable antigay attack on Arkansas’ courts.” Lesh criticizes a resolution by the Arkansas Legislative Council, submitted to the state Supreme Court, accusing a trial court judge of failing to uphold the state Constitution when he declared unconstitutional a state ban on marriage for same-sex couples (see Gavel Grab for more).

“Attacks on our courts are outrageous and put our system of justice at risk, but we do not have to resign ourselves to the ‘new normal’ of a politicized judicial branch,” Lesh writes. Lambda Legal is a Justice at Stake partner organization. Read more

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Tennessee Supreme Court Picks Slatery as Attorney General

Slatery

Slatery

Herbert Slatery, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s legal counsel, was named state attorney general by the Tennessee Supreme Court on Monday.

Slatery was one of six finalists for the post. He will be Tennessee’s first Republican attorney general, according to the Associated Press.

Tennessee is the only state where the attorney general is named by the Supreme Court. With its action on Monday, the court denied a second eight-year term to incumbent Attorney General Bob Cooper, The Commercial Appeal noted; when three Democrat-appointed justices successfully ran for retention this year, their critics made Cooper’s record a centerpiece of the campaign to remove the justices. Read more

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In Six Years, President Has Reshaped Face of Appeals Courts

white-housePresident Obama has made his mark reshaping the federal circuit courts of appeals, where judges appointed by Democratic presidents now outnumber those appointed by Republicans by 95 to 77, the New York Times reports.

This represents a reversal of the majority on the appeals benches when Obama took office, and it was accelerated by the Senate’s changing its rules last year to eliminate the filibuster as a procedural weapon to fight confirmation of most judges. The article says the judicial appointments stand to affect Americans in many ways for many years, and stand out given gridlock in Congress on other fronts.

At the same time, Republicans have begun raising the issue of judicial selection as they campaign to try to wrest control of the Senate away from Democrats, the article says. Political battling over judicial nominations also caught attention in these other recent media reports: Read more

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JAS Report on Judicial Election Spending is Featured

A report by Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice, two nonpartisan reform organizations, about judicial election spending so far in 2014 grabbed national exposure when it was carried by Legal Newsline. 

jas_logoAlready this year, more than $3.1 million has been spent on TV ads in state supreme court primaries and off-cycle elections, the groups said last week. Three states with off-cycle elections (Tennessee, Idaho, and Arkansas) saw greater spending than in their prior election cycles, while North Carolina saw record spending in its primary (more than $1.3 million).

In November, contested elections will be held for supreme courts in eight states and retention (up-or-down) elections will be held in 14 states. Legal Newsline is owned by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform. The Brennan Center is a JAS partner organization.

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On 40th Anniversary, a Salute to Merit Selection in Arizona

1280px-Flag_of_Arizona.svgArizona marks the 40th anniversary this year of its adoption of merit selection for choosing appellate judges and Superior Court judges in its largest counties. In an Arizona Republic op-ed, Chief Justice Scott Bales says the system has “allowed Arizona’s judiciary to earn a national reputation for fairness, efficiency and innovation.”

The Chief Justice’s op-ed is largely explanatory about how merit selection works to seat well-qualified judges, and about the Judicial Performance Review system, established by voters in 1992, to which all merit-selected judges are subject. Justice Bales also writes of  high regard nationally and in the state for Arizona’s system: Read more

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Monday Gavel Grab Briefs

In these other dispatches about fair and impartial courts:

  • The Washington Supreme Court said the legislature has failed to fully fund public education as required by a 2012 court order, and it found the legislature in contempt of court, according to a Q13 Fox report.
  • When the U.S. Senate killed last week a constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens United, it marked the partisan-driven death of a proposal to “take Big Money out of politics,” James Gaines wrote in a Reuters opinion.
  • Delaware Gov. Jack Markell is preparing to nominate a new state Supreme Court justice based on a list of four finalists recommended to him by a judicial nominating commission, the News Journal reported.
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Sotomayor: Room for Greater Diversity on Supreme Court

There is still room for greater diversity on the U.S. Supreme Court, after considering gender, race and ethnicity, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said in Oklahoma City last week.

“We don’t have one criminal defense lawyer on our court,” she said, according to a Wall Street Journal Law Blog post. In addition, there are no justices on the bench from solo practices or having big law experience, she said.

“The president should be paying attention to that broader diversity question,” Justice Sotomayor remarked. Read more

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Record Candidate Spending Ahead in N.C. Court Elections This Fall?

Cash-gavel-sold1Candidates for the North Carolina Supreme Court and state Court of Appeals are poised to spend record sums in campaigning for election this fall, according to an analysis by Facing South, the online magazine of the Institute for Southern Studies.

Five court candidates and one district attorney candidate have reserved sets of joint TV ads that total almost $500,000, the magazine said. At the same time, with the state legislature having killed a public financing program for judicial elections, candidates may be taking significant cash from parties who end up appearing before the winner in court.

In the case of incumbent Chief Justice Mark Martin, the article said, of $121,000 in campaign contributions made during April-June 2014, 43 percent of the contributors are attorneys and judges. Read more

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Senate Ballot Dispute to Come Before Kansas High Court

0In a politically charged and nationally watched dispute, the Kansas Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Tuesday in an effort to decide whether Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Chad Taylor may remove his name from the November ballot.

Taylor’s recent attempted withdrawal from the race with Republican Sen. Pat Roberts and Independent Greg Orman has widely been viewed as changing the dynamics of the contest, and possibly in favor of Orman. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, however, has contended that Taylor did not meet the legal requirements for withdrawal in the letter he submitted, because he did not declare he would be incapable of serving if voters elected him. Read more

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Arkansas Supreme Court Removes Judge Maggio From Bench

1372349497-maggioThe Arkansas Supreme Court has ordered immediate removal of Faulkner County Circuit Judge Mike Maggio from the bench, rejecting a part of a settlement agreement by the judge that he be suspended with pay until the end of 2014.

“We deem any further suspension with pay to be inappropriate,” the high court said, according to the Associated Press. The judge was disciplined over his disclosing  confidential details about an adoption involving actress Charlize Theron and making off-color remarks in an online forum (see Gavel Grab). Read more

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