State judicial elections are often tricky to navigate, and even more so for candidates with little to no experience running a political campaign. Because of this, business in Illinois is booming for political consultants, says the Chicago Tribune.
When Terrence Lavin, former president of the Illinois State Bar Association, wanted to run for a vacancy on the Illinois Appellate Court, he hired campaign consultants Michael Tierney and Wallace “Gator” Bradley to assist in his campaign. Lavin later won the election in November 2012.
According to the article, there is growing concern about the influence of political consultants in the state’s judicial elections. Watchdog groups fear that the process will become more political as more money pours into campaigns. Read more
After the U.S. Senate confirmed Sri Srinivasan 97-0 to a place on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Thursday, Justice at Stake Director of Federal Affairs and Diversity Initiatives Praveen Fernandes said the vote was a “welcome break” in the logjam of judicial nominations (see Gavel Grab).
In a Legal Newsline article, Fernandes applauds the senators for coming together “in a bipartisan manner to confirm a nominee to the D.C. Circuit, which saw its last confirmation back in 2006.”
The Senate has been criticized for its inability to act swiftly on judicial nominations, and American Constitution Society President Caroline Fredrickson says she hopes Srinivasan’s short wait on the floor will become the “standard, not the exception, for all nominees.”
In these other dispatches about fair and impartial courts:
- A late surge in votes Tuesday night’s primary race vaulted Pennsylvania Common Pleas Judge Jack McVay Jr. to the Democratic nomination for the state’s Superior Court. According to the Pittsburgh Tribune, McVay will face attorney Vic Stabile, the Republican candidate, in the general election this fall.
- Pennsylvania’s law mandating that state court judges retire when they reach the age of 70 is being challenged in three different cases, and the state Supreme Court has decided to take up the lawsuit. Bucks County Judge Alan Rubenstein wants a special judge appointed to the case, says the ABA Journal, and objects to the involvement of the Supreme Court justices.
- On Friday, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia upheld the 28-year sentence for former Luzerne County Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. The Pennsylvania Citizens’ Voice reports that Ciavarella was convicted in February 2011 on charges of racketeering and conspiracy.
It is uncertain whether the North Carolina House will go along with a state Senate budget that eliminates the state’s program for public financing of judicial elections, according to a WUNC Radio report.
Republicans dominate the legislature, but not all House Republicans agree with proposals to scuttle the program. Republican Rep. David Lewis, chairman of the House Elections Committee, said about the program: “I think it does give the opportunity for judges to be judges without having to focus as much on being politicians.”
At a special committee session convened by Lewis, former West Virginia Supreme Court Justice John McCuskey talked about the Mountain State’s pilot program, modeled after North Carolina’s, and the desires of judicial candidates.
“Maybe they wouldn’t be good legislators or governors, but they might well be good judges, and you don’t wanna discourage people that really don’t like that aspect of running for office- having to raise great deals of money- from being in the pool. And this Read more
Oklahoma has adopted a new ban on use of foreign or international law in state courts, after federal courts had invalidated earlier Oklahoma restrictions that specifically identified Sharia, or Islamic law.
Earlier this week Gavel Grab discussed a growing movement to restrict Islamic law in our courts, and Oklahoma’s invalidated law was mentioned. Thanks to Gavel to Gavel, a publication of the National Center for State Courts, there is fresh news about recent efforts in Oklahoma and other states. The new Oklahoma ban does not specifically mention Sharia.
The Gavel to Gavel headline goes a long way in updating the news: “Bans on court use of sharia/international law: OK approves new ban; WA approves modified version; AL approves sweeping constitutional amendment; MO governor may sign or veto.”
The National Center for State Courts is a Justice at Stake partner organization.
Justice at Stake said on Thursday it was encouraged by President Obama’s affirmation, in a speech on on national security and counterterrorism policy, that the Constitution’s protections define us as a nation and do not vanish in a time of war.
“For over two centuries, the United States has been bound together by founding documents that defined who we are as Americans, and served as our compass through every type of changes. Matters of war and peace are no different,” Obama said.
Some highlights of Obama’s remarks as they involve the courts and judicial review are found in an earlier Gavel Grab post. Praveen Fernandes, JAS director of federal affairs and diversity initiatives, responded to these remarks in a statement.
JAS commended Obama’s commitment to review proposals to extend oversight of lethal actions outside of warzones. “The President acknowledged that the targeting of American citizens raises significant constitutional concerns,” Fernandes said. “Leaders from both parties and all three branches of government need to grapple seriously with what the Constitution demands in terms of due process and other protections.” Read more
In a key speech on counterterrorism policies and drone strikes, President Obama invited Congress on Thursday to consider ways for “increased oversight” of lethal action outside warzones, including creation of a secret court or an executive branch panel. He said each option “poses difficulties in practice.”
Here are Obama’s specific remarks on the topic, taken from a text of his speech as prepared for delivery:
“Going forward, I have asked my Administration to review proposals to extend oversight of lethal actions outside of warzones that go beyond our reporting to Congress. Each option has virtues in theory, but poses difficulties in practice. For example, the establishment of a special court to evaluate and authorize lethal action has the benefit of bringing a third branch of government into the process, but raises serious constitutional issues about presidential and judicial Read more
On Primary Day this week, Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Bob Brady was concerned that some ballots being distributed by ward leaders would cost Democratic judicial candidates. Brady called members of the City Committee to “flood” the ward in question and “to send a message,” demonstrating the might of the party’s political machine.
According to the Philadelphia Daily News, all but two of the 12 candidates the party endorsed came out on top in Tuesday’s Philadelphia primary, and one of them was in a neck-and-neck contest.
Republican candidate Anne Marie Coyle, who was listed first on the ballot, was the only Republican to advance from the primary. Critics of Pennsylvania’s judicial elections who prefer a merit-based system argue that the primary shows why the elections should be scrapped. Read more
The Senate voted 97-0 on Thursday to confirm Sri Srinivasan, the principal U.S. deputy solicitor general, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, according to USA Today. Justice at Stake applauded the bipartisan approach that resulted in a confirmation.
Srinivasan is the first Obama nominee confirmed for what is widely viewed as the nation’s second most influential appeals court. The Senate filibustered earlier and prevented an up-down vote on Obama’s nomination to the court of New York attorney Caitlin Halligan; the 11-member court still has three more vacancies.
“We applaud the fact that Senators were able to come together in a bipartisan manner to confirm a nominee to the D.C. Circuit Court, which saw its last confirmation back in 2006,” said Praveen Fernandes, JAS director of federal affairs and diversity initiatives, in a statement. “This is a welcome break in a confirmation logjam that has left the nation’s second most important federal appellate court understaffed for years. ” Read more
In these other dispatches about fair and impartial courts:
- Millions of dollars were spent by outside groups in the 2012 election, and much of it funneled through 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organizations that don’t have to disclose their donors to the public. Members of Congress reintroduced a version of the Disclose Act recently that would require these groups to disclose their campaign spending, and hopefully increase transparency and accountability in politics, says a Washington Post editorial.
- The people of West Virginia should be more outraged by the actions of Don Blankenship in his attempt to buy a state supreme court decision concerning his mining company, argues a West Virginia Journal News column. Laurence Leamer, author of the new book “The Price of Justice,” asked recently over Twitter, why Blankenship had not been indicted for his company’s violations of safety standards and business practices designed to drive others into bankruptcy.
- Advocates for campaign finance reform are urging New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to press the Legislature for changes to state election laws. Cuomo says he will support the use of public financing in elections, but the New York Times states that some are concerned he will not push for it hard enough before the end of the legislative session in June.