Gavel Grab

Archive for the ‘Justice at Stake’ Category

Two Candidates Now Take to TV Airwaves in W.Va. Court Race

A second candidate, of five running for the West Virginia Supreme Court in an election on May 10, has begun purchasing TV advertising contracts, Justice at Stake said in a statement on Saturday.

Former state legislator Bill Wooton had begun buying TV ads earlier (see Gavel Grab). Now Justice Brent Benjamin, running for a new term on the court, has joined him. The Wooton campaign has bought ad contracts totaling at least $110,140, and the Benjamin campaign, at least $38,730. Also running are attorney Wayne King, former state Attorney General Darrell McGraw Jr., and attorney Beth Walker.

“So far, the tone of campaign ads in West Virginia’s Supreme Court race has been constructive and we’ve seen no sign of outside spending by special interests,” said JAS Executive Director Susan Liss. “The state deserves credit for reforms it has put in place to help make this possible, and we hope that these positive trends continue all the way through Election Day.” Read more

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N.Y. Times Spotlights Partisan Attacks to Reshape Courts, Cites JAS

New-York-Times-logoAcross the nation, court decisions are coming under partisan attack whether in judicial elections or attempts by politicians to reshape courts to their liking, The New York Times reports from Kansas, virtually a ground zero of these attacks:

“TOPEKA, Kan. — Washington is locked in partisan warfare over control of the Supreme Court. But it is hardly the only place. Look at the states, where political attacks on judicial decisions are common and well-financed attack ads are starting to jar the once-sleepy elections for State Supreme Court seats.”

In Topeka, the article zeroes in on an effort to broaden the grounds for impeaching Kansas Supreme Court justices (see Gavel Grab) and expected efforts to dump in retention (up-or-down) elections this fall four justices “regarded as moderate or liberal.” The article also touches on big spending in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race under way — quoting Justice at Stake and Brennan Center for Justice ad spending data — and in Pennsylvania last year, a political assault on the Georgia Supreme Court and an expansion measure labeled by critics as “court-packing” in Georgia: Read more

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AP Features JAS Warning on Costly, Politicized Court Races

Wisconsin_flag_mapDespite facing a flood of negative TV advertising, Court of Appeals JoAnne Kloppenburg is sticking close in a recent poll to opponent Justice Rebecca Bradley in the Wisconsin Supreme Court election, the Associated Press reported, using Justice at Stake ad-tracking data.

“High-priced, politicized judicial elections are no way to build fair and impartial courts,” the AP quoted JAS Executive Director Susan Liss as saying.

The election will be held Tuesday. TV ad spending was approaching $2.7 million when JAS and the Brennan Center for Justice documented totals earlier this week; TV ad contract purchases by the Wisconsin Alliance for Reform, backing Bradley, totaled about $1.54 million and those by the Greater Wisconsin Committee, supporting Kloppenburg, at least $345,000.

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JAS: Combined Outside Spending Dominates in WI Court Race Air Wars

gavel-and-cash.125192919_stdTwo outside groups are dominating spending in the air wars preceding the Wisconsin Supreme Court election on April 5, with their combined buys adding up to at least $1,881,025 overall, Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice said on Thursday.

Total TV ad spending (in the primary and general election combined) has reached at least $2,688,306, JAS and the Brennan Center said in a joint analysis, with these totals for the current participants: Justice Rebecca Bradley’s campaign, booking contracts worth at least $223,350; Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg’s campaign, $441,426; the Wisconsin Alliance for Reform, with advertising in support of Bradley, $1,535,595; and Greater Wisconsin Committee, in support of Kloppenburg, $345,430. Another candidate was eliminated in the primary.

“The deluge of special-interest money flowing into Wisconsin’s Supreme Court race is a sign of a judicial selection system that is out of balance,” said JAS Executive Director Susan Liss. “High-priced, politicized judicial elections are no way to build fair and impartial courts. It’s time to look seriously at reforms, like merit selection, that will help get money and politics out of the judicial selection process.” Read more

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Justice at Stake Voices Opposition to Arizona ‘Court Packing’ Attempt

Mark Harrison, Justice at Stake Board Chair and an Arizona attorney, voiced opposition on Thursday to a bill advancing in the legislature to expand the Arizona Supreme Court from five to seven justices (see Gavel Grab for background).

“Arizonans have repeatedly stood against partisan political tampering with our courts, so we’re disappointed to see this fresh attempt by legislators bent on politically-motivated court packing in the state,” Harrison said in a statement.

“And the political motive is clear, because our own Chief Justice has stated that neither he nor other current members of the Court believe the Court needs more justices to handle its current caseload. This notion to expand our Supreme Court has been raised and rejected before, and deserves to fall by the wayside again. ”

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Will High Court Revisit Issue of Judicial Election Money and Recusal?

A new request invites the U.S. Supreme Court to accept an appeal and revisit the issue of judicial campaign contributions and a perception of bias from the bench, Alison Frankel writes for Reuters. She provides context about the issue from a Justice at Stake-coauthored report.

The St. Louis law firm of lawyer Stephen Tillery has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear an appeal and find that Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier improperly declined to recuse himself from a multi-billion dollar anti-tobacco case, as Gavel Grab recently mentioned. The Reuters article addresses this filing and more recent arguments by Philip Morris, in its opposition brief, and by more than a dozen former state appellate judges, in an amicus brief supporting the Tillery firm.

Last year, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled as it had before in favor of tobacco company Philip Morris, sparing it a $10.1 billion judgment in the anti-tobacco litigation, and Justice Karmeier voted in the 4-2 majority. Karmeier had declined a request by plaintiffs to recuse. When Karmeier ran for retention (yes-or-no) election in 2014, a $3 million spending battle “was largely linked to interests with a connection” to the ongoing anti-tobacco litigation, Justice at Stake and two partner organizations reported in Bankrolling the Bench: The New Politics of Judicial Elections 2013-14. Read more

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Clear Signs of Conservative-Liberal Split Between WI Court Candidates

Justice Bradley, at left, Judge Kloppenburg, at right

Justice Bradley, at left, Judge Kloppenburg, at right

There are clear signs from appointed incumbent Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Bradley and her opponent, Court of Appeals Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg, that the former lines up with conservatives in judicial philosophy and the latter with liberals, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

Bradley has praised the late Justice Antonin Scalia of the U.S. Supreme Court and his judicial philosophy, and Kloppenburg, sitting Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In their close race for election on April 5 to the court, a Bradley win would maintain court control by conservatives while a Kloppenburg win would reduce to 4-3 the court’s conservative majority.

The Associated Press reported that Bradley’s campaign has raised $480,000, and Kloppenburg’s, almost $380,000. A separate Associated Press overview of the race mentioned heavy outside group spending and cited Justice at Stake data about TV ad spending by these groups (see Gavel Grab).

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On Wisconsin Court Race, AP Relies on Justice at Stake for Ad Data

As Court of Appeals Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg bids for the second time in the past five years for the Wisconsin Supreme Court, the spotlight is once again more on someone else, this time incumbent Justice Rebecca Bradley, according to The Associated Press.

“Kloppenburg … has been largely defined in both races by attack ads coming from conservative groups supporting her rivals. Kloppenburg’s strategy this time has been to emphasize Bradley’s ties to [Gov. Scott] Walker, but her success on April 5 may depend on whether she’s done enough to define herself, received enough support from liberal groups and capitalized enough on Bradley’s troubles,” the AP said. Bradley, who was appointed by Walker, is seeking election to a full term.

The AP quoted data from Justice at Stake about TV about spending in the contest so far. The Wisconsin Alliance for Reform has purchased TV ad contracts totaling about $1.2 million in support of Bradley, compared to about $196,000 in TV air time purchased by the incumbent’s campaign; meanwhile the Greater Wisconsin Committee has spent about $265,000 for ads in support of Kloppenburg, and her campaign, about $223,000 in TV advertising time.


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New Twist to IL Judicial Elections, and AP Quotes Justice at Stake

When the Associated Press took a look at an unusual twist in local Illinois judicial elections, it quoted Justice at Stake characterizing the saga as an extension of politics.

Three St. Clair County judges plan to quit their jobs later this year in order to run now for partisan election, rather than retention (up-or-down) election, with the latter requiring 60 percent of the vote to prevail rather than a simple majority (see Gavel Grab for background).

“If you’re a judge in a political system, you find a way to play within the system,” said Debra Erenberg, JAS director of state affairs. “They have found a loophole.”

The AP said the southern Illinois judges’ political maneuver “is drawing attention due to skyrocketing campaign costs and the undue influence that money might have.”

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Report on Ex-Judge’s Sentencing Quotes Justice at Stake

When U.S. District Judge Brian Miller sentenced former Arkansas Judge Michael Maggio to 10 years in prison for lowering a jury verdict after taking a bribe given as campaign money, he harshly criticized the former jurist.

“What is worse, a dope dealer on the phone talking about a dope deal or a dirty judge?” Miller said, according to The Times Record. “A dirty judge is by far more harmful to society than any dope dealer.”

The Times Record reported that a debate about reforming the selection of judges is under way in Arkansas, and quoted Justice at Stake Executive Director Susan Liss. Read more

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