The campaign committee of Democrat Judy Cates received almost $50,000 in the finance reporting period that began April 1 and ends June 30, according to an article in the Madison County Record. She has had help from about a dozen Chicago lawyers and law firms.
The campaign of Republican Judge Stephen McGlynn, who sits in St. Clair County, reported raising $5,000 during the same period.
Ed Murnane, president of the Illinois Civil Justice League, said it is expected that money will flow into the contest once the election season advances.
Murnane’s group pushed aggressively to oust Illinois Justice Thomas Kilbride in a 2010 retention election (see Gavel Grab). The group supported McGlynn in a prior election.
Cates is a former president of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association.
Business leaders ought to speak out against “smear tactics” used in a business-supported campaign to oust Illinois Justice Thomas Kilbride, says a scathing editorial in Crain’s Chicago Business. It warns that the cornerstones of capitalism are unsafe when “justice is for sale.”
The Illinois Civil Justice League has pushed aggressively to remove Justice Kilbride after his vote siding with a court majority against limits on medical malpractice claims. But to move voters, the group “slurs him with the baseless charge that he’s soft on crime,” the editorial says. It condemns the attacks:
“The Civil Justice League draws financial support and legitimacy from its ties to business. Those connections make it appear that business condones these scurrilous attacks.”
And the editorial uses scorching language to decry what an ouster of Justice Kilbride would mean, not just for business, but also for our courts:
“[I]f Justice Kilbride loses, the victory will be pyrrhic for business. If such tactics by a single-issue pressure group succeed, every judicial race in Illinois will turn into a judge-buying contest.
“Judges, who should be the most independent government officials, will become handmaidens of the interest groups that fund their campaigns. Justice will be capricious, driven by the interests of political donors, not established principles of law.
“Business depends on an objective, consistent justice system. Courts uphold two cornerstones of capitalism: property rights and contracts. Neither is safe when justice is for sale.” Read more
FactCheck.org has branded “Mudfest 2010″ some of the most questionable — and false or misleading — advertising attacks on incumbent state justices launched in this year’s election season.
FactCheck.org is a nonpartisan group that examines campaign ads, and it is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
In its report, the group scrutinizes in detail attack ads from one competitive election, in Michigan, and two retention elections, in Illinois and Iowa, and delivers these conclusions:
MICHIGAN: A Democratic ad “falsely accuses” Justice Robert Young, a Republican, of ruling that “Michigan citizens cannot hold [corporations] accountable when they pollute our lakes or rivers.” That’s not the case, FactCheck.org states, because “any citizen directly affected by environmental harm can still sue.”
ILLINOIS: Justice Thomas Kilbride is portrayed as pro-criminal in an ad by the business-backed Illinois Civil Justice League, and he is claimed to hold the “worst public safety rating” on the court. But the ad is “based on a study using questionable methodology and funded by the group itself,” FactCheck.org says in an analysis entitled, “Cherry-Picking Season in Illinois.”
IOWA: In this heated battleground over a state Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage, an ad accuses three justices of “being “liberal,” “out of control” and “ignoring the will of voters.” But hold on, says FactCheck.org, the decision was unanimous and was written by an appointee of a Republican governor, and moreover, “‘ignoring the will of voters’ is exactly what justices are called on to do.”
By the way, FactCheck.org notes, most polls have founds Iowans closely split on the issue.
You can view the ads at Justice at Stake’s Judicial Elections 2010 page.
In Michigan, both political parties are delivering campaign bombs that accuse state Supreme Court candidates of coddling criminals.
In one Democratic TV ad, a faceless narrator says Judge Mary Beth Kelly could have imprisoned Ihab Maslamani before a crime spree led to the brutal murder of a man abducted outside a sub shop. But Judge Kelly “just let him through the revolving door, despite warning signs,” the narrator says. Judge Kelly is a Republican.
The ad uses a partial quote from Judge Kelly, who told a newspaper she felt “really badly.” The judge says she was talking about efforts to rehabilitate Maslamani in the juvenile system, and that she didn’t have the authority to lock him up or deport him, according to an Associated Press article.
Separately a GOP ad assails Judge Denise Langford Morris, a Democrat, for “a history of releasing dangerous criminals,” although it does not elaborate. Read more
Two newspapers in states with scorching judicial elections are surveying the political battlegrounds and ensuing public distrust, and they’re concluding that reform is crucial.
A Chicago Tribune editorial urges a switch to merit selection of judges after it frames a high-spending retention race for Justice Thomas Kilbride, a Democrat, as mainly a partisan political battle for dominance on the Illinois Supreme Court.
In Alabama, which has the nation’s costliest state Supreme Court elections, an Anniston Star editorial excoriates a “checkbook judiciary” and a high court “almost exclusively in the hands of judges bought and paid for by deep-pocketed interests who prefer a legal system that tips the scale in their favor.”
The editorial urges possible steps, including an appointment/retention election system, to bring balance to the high court.
ILLINOIS: The red-hot retention election facing Justice Kilbride is the highest-spending retention contest in the state’s history, according to the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, a Justice at Stake partner.
The incumbent’s campaign has raised more than $2.48 million since July 1, including more than $1.4 million from the Democratic Party. A group working aggressively to oppose him, JUSTPAC, the political committee of the Illinois Civil Justice League, has reported more than $667,000 in contributions, according to the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. Read more
A group of active and retired Illinois state judges is condemning “incendiary” special interest group attacks on a sitting state Supreme Court justice as outright false and threatening judicial independence.
Special interest groups seeking to oust Justice Thomas Kilbride in a November retention election “have resorted to ugly misrepresentations and falsehood” of his opinions, and these groups “pose a direct threat to fairness and impartiality of all Illinois judges,” the Illinois Judges Association warned Friday in a highly unusual statement.
Justice Kilbride was part of a 4-2 majority in February 2010 that overturned limits on medical malpractice awards—the third time the court has taken such a position.
The high court’s incoming chief justice, he has drawn fierce opposition from business-allied groups. JUSTPAC, a group affiliated with the Illinois Civil Justice League, ran a radio ad featuring actors who portray vicious criminals and thank the judge for allegedly siding “with us over law enforcement or our victims” (see Gavel Grab).
Here are excerpts from the statement by the Illinois Judges Association, a nonpartisan group with 1,100 members:
“The special interest groups trying to oust incoming Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court Tom Kilbride in his retention election pose a direct threat to fairness and impartiality of all Illinois judges. Through the use of deceptive and slick marketing, those sullying Justice Tom Kilbride are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for their own ideological and political ends at the expense of the touchstone of the American legal system – a judiciary independent of all influences and interests. Read more
The Illinois State Bar Association has condemned a soft-on-crime advertising attack leveled against state Supreme Court Justice Thomas Kilbride run by JUSTPAC, a group affiliated with the Illinois Civil Justice League.
Justice Kilbride is running in a hard-fought retention election. The radio advertisement (available above) featured actors portraying convicted criminals, and voicing appreciation to the justice for allegedly siding “with us over law enforcement or our victims.”
“The ‘JUSTPAC’ campaign directed at Justice Kilbride is inappropriate and distorts his record,” the state bar group said, according to a Chicago Sun-Times article.
In at least one of the cases, however, Justice Kilbride favored upholding the criminal’s conviction but backed a different legal method for doing so, the newspaper reported.
Once the ad’s accuracy was questioned, some stations halted their use of it. Nonetheless, “We’ll stand by everything on the ads,” said Ed Murnane of the Illinois Civil Justice League. That group is urging voters to deny reelection to the justice.
To retain his seat on the state’s high court, Justice Kilbride must get a 60 percent “yes” vote, according to a Madison St. Clair Record article about the high-spending race. You can read more about the contest by checking out Justice at Stake’s Judicial Elections 2010 page.
As retention elections go, spending in the battle over reelecting Illinois Justice Thomas Kilbride is surging into the stratosphere, according to the latest report on the 2010 elections by the Justice at Stake Campaign and the Brennan Center for Justice.
Justice Kilbride has raised nearly $2.1 million toward his reelection, and the Illinois Civil Justice League, urging voters to oust the justice, has raised $561,000. The combined $2.6 million is extraordinary for a retention election, and the Illinois bout has become the nation’s most expensive one-candidate retention election in this decade, the groups said.
In addition, the groups reported, TV spending also cracked the $1 million mark in Ohio, and TV ads began airing in two contentious races in Michigan. In the battleground of Iowa, where three state Supreme Court justices are defending their seats against an ouster drive (see Gavel Grab), groups for and against the justices’ retention have reported spending a total of $656,000, despite a several-week lull in TV ads.
“We are seeing a dramatic expansion in spending by special interest groups, who want to hold judges to narrow, one-issue agendas, and not to the law and the Constitution,” said Charles Hall, a Justice at Stake spokesman. “Americans believe that campaign cash buys special treatment at the courthouse, so this is a new threat to public confidence in our courts.”
The top developments from judicial elections were reported by Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice in their joint web site, “Judicial Elections 2010.” The site includes updates and links to TV ads from states facing high-court elections this year. Read more
There are new reports of big campaign money flowing into an increasingly contentious retention election faced by a state Supreme Court justice in Illinois.
Democratic Justice Thomas L. Kilbride (second from left in photo) is caught up in a “mud-filled battle” over re-election, columnist Greg Hinz writes in a Chicago Business commentary. Hinz suggests the overall state picture is not a pretty one:
“Welcome to the wild and woolly world of Illinois judicial elections, where it certainly looks like the well-heeled are trying to buy justice.”
When Justice Kilbride won election a decade ago, Hinz writes, he benefited from “hundreds of thousands of dollars in late campaign contributions from Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, who perhaps wanted a friend on the court as it prepared to take up a legislative remap.”
This time, Justice Kilbride has upset some groups by voting with a state Supreme Court majority that declared unconstitutional a law limiting the sums that doctors and hospitals could be sued for (see Gavel Grab). The Illinois Civil Justice League isn’t happy with Justice Kilbride and has attacked him as soft on crime, perceiving that as a more voter-friendly issue.
One ICJL radio spot about crime “had to be revised after stations refused to run it on factual grounds,” according to Hinz, and Justice Kilbride and some outsiders have contended the attacks were unfair.
Meanwhile, more money is flowing into the election. The ICJL has been helped by a $100,000 donation from the American Justice Partnership, and $150,000 is “on the way” from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Hinz reports. (To learn about equally large donations supporting Justice Kilbride, see below.) Hinz’s conclusion: Read more
Voters never have bounced an incumbent Illinois Supreme Court justice in a retention (up-or-down) election. Could Election 2010 change that?
An Associated Press article raises that possibility. It reports that “politics is beginning to spill into simple judicial races that never used to be contested,” and the retention election facing Justice Thomas Kilbride is an example. The article cites the Justice at Stake Campaign to back up its conclusion.
Poised to take over soon as chief justice, the 57-year-old jurist is encountering opposition from business interests who want to deny him re-election. The Illinois Civil Justice League, leading the ouster drive, is critical of his record. A major sore point for ICJL is a high court decision he supported; it declared unconstitutional a law limiting the sums that doctors and hospitals could be sued for (see Gavel Grab).
“We’re going to raise as much as we can to help remove Judge Kilbride,” pledged Ed Murnane, an ICJL leader. He also is treasurer for JUSTPAC, a group taking aim at judges who it finds unfriendly to business. Murnane said a media blitz will be launched against Justice Kilbride in October.
Justice Kilbride said, “It’s a very awkward situation.” He added, “I can’t match any amount of money they’re talking about spending, and we’re going to have to work extra hard to make sure we get the facts out.” Read more