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MI Justice Young: ‘I’m Still Standing’

A campaign slugfest returned the Michigan Supreme Court to Republicans with the defeat Tuesday of Justice Alton Davis and election of Justice Robert Young and Judge Mary Beth Kelly.

In other states’ contested elections, a woman will hold the title of Ohio chief justice for the first time; and a Republican justice calling himself a “tea party conservative” triumphed over a Democratic challenger in Alabama.

In Michigan, Justice Young (photo at right, courtesy of his campaign website) prevailed despite harsh Democratic attack ads that had accused him of coddling polluters and crude conduct;  the soft-on-polluters attack was itself challenged by an independent fact-checking group.

“I’m still standing,” Justice Young said last night, according to a Detroit Free Press article. “When you shoot at the king, you’re supposed to kill him.”

He and Wayne County Circuit Judge Kelly placed ahead of Justice Davis, appointed this year by Michigan’s Democratic governor, and Democrat Denise Langford Morris, a circuit judge in Oakland County.

In Ohio, Justice Maureen O’Connor defeated recently appointed Chief Justice Eric Brown, a Democrat. Republican Justice Judith Lanzinger defeated her challenger, Democratic appellate judge Mary Jane Trapp, according to a Cleveland Plain Dealer article. Both Republicans cruised to easy victories. Read more

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Election 2010: IA Justices Out; Kilbride In

Voters booted three Iowa Supreme Court justices in a retention election yesterday, after social conservatives and national groups mounted an ouster drive over a unanimous court decision permitting same-sex marriage. The outcome was a historic upset, according to a Des Moines Register article.

Illinois Justice Thomas Kilbride survived on the bench in a nasty retention election after facing fierce and well-funded opposition from groups supporting limits on jury awards in malpractice cases, the Chicago Tribune reported.

You can check out the votes on Justice at Stake’s  Election 2010 results page. Gavel Grab will provide detailed coverage through the day of these and other key judicial election races and ballot issues, including:

  • NEVADA: Voters turned down a ballot initiative to replace competitive elections for judges with a system of merit selection appointments and retention elections, according to a Las Vegas Review-Journal article.
  • ALASKA: A late-hour TV ad campaign failed to unseat Supreme Court Justice Dana Fabe, according to incomplete returns reported by KTUU Channel 2.
  • MICHIGAN: Control of the state Supreme Court swung back to Republicans with the defeat of Justice Alton Davis and election of Justice Robert Young and Judge Mary Beth Kelly, according to a Detroit Free Press article.
  • OHIO: Voters replaced Chief Justice Eric Brown, a Democratic appointee, with fellow Justice Maureen O’Connor, a Republican, while Republican Justice Judith Lanzinger defeated Democrat Mary Jane Trapp, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported.
  • COLORADO: A group called Clear the Bench apparently failed in its drive to unseat three justices, whom the group had accused of  improperly driving up state spending and taxes, according to a Denver Post article.
  • KANSAS: Voters retained four justices, the Wichita Eagle reported, and in two counties rejected attempts to get rid of merit selection for local trial judges.
  • FLORIDA: Four Supreme Court justices, including two targeted by tea party activists, appeared headed for retention, the Associated Press reported.
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Chamber Spin-Off Spends Big in Ohio Races

The Partnership for Ohio’s Future, which has received funding from the Ohio and U.S. Chambers of Commerce, spent more than $1.57 million in support of two Republican candidates for the Ohio Supreme Court through Oct. 13.

The Partnership poured almost $1.1 million into TV airtime to support the reelection of Justice Judith Lanzinger and more than $364,000 on airtime in support of the candidacy of Justice Maureen O’Connor for chief justice, according to data reported by the Money in Politics blog of Ohio Citizen Action. You can read the independent expenditure reports by clicking here.

In addition, the Partnership spent more than $118,000 on postcards in support of the two.

Justice O’Connor is challenging recently appointed Chief Justice Eric Brown, a Democrat. Lanzinger is being challenged by Democratic appellate judge Mary Jane Trapp.

The Partnership for Ohio’s Future spent an estimated $684,000 on TV ads in 2008, outspending the candidates on the ballot. And various chamber affiliates have spent a total of $7.6 million on independent election efforts in Ohio since 2000, according to the “New Politics 2000-2009” report of Justice at Stake and its partner groups. You can learn more about the Partnership for Ohio’s Future efforts from a recent Justice at Stake press release.

According to the Money in Politics blog, Justice O’Connor’s campaign has raised just under $850,000 in contributions and Justice Lanzinger’s, more than $790,000. Chief Justice Brown has raised nearly $550,000 and Judge Trapp, just under $515,500.

To learn more about the Ohio election, click here for Gavel Grab or by checking out the JAS Ohio news page. Ohio Citizen Action is a JAS partner group.

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OH Judicial Candidates Take Clean-Campaign Pledge

With big-spending judicial races a possibility this year, four candidates for the Ohio Supreme Court have taken a clean-campaign pledge proposed by the Ohio State Bar Association.

David Crago, dean of the Ohio Northern University Law School and chair of the OSBA’s Judicial Campaign Advertising Monitoring Committee, said the pledge was aimed at helping candidates and independent committees to “focus on credentials and experience.” In a press release, Crago alluded to departures from that focus in the past:

“We are concerned that recent court decisions could potentially open an influx of large sums of money into Ohio’s Supreme Court races.

“We think this could return this state to its infamous position of being the poster child of all that is wrong with judicial elections.”

Signing the pledge were two candidates for chief justice, recently appointed Chief Justice Eric Brown, a Democrat, and Justice Maureen O’Connor, a Republican; and  Republican Justice Judith Lanzinger and appellate Judge Mary Jane Trapp, a Democrat, according to a Toledo Blade article. Ohio has seen some of the nation’s most expensive judicial elections. Read more


Ohio Candidate Cool to Judicial Appointment Plan

An appellate judge who is running as a Democrat for the Ohio Supreme Court has declined to endorse a  judicial appointment and retention election plan, aimed at reducing the influence of big campaign cash and partisan politics.

According to The Columbus Dispatch, Judge Mary Jane Trapp said “Ohio voters have overwhelmingly rejected the idea, most recently in 1987.”  Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer, a Justice at Stake board member, has proposed appointing Supreme Court justices and held a recent conference to gather support.

Earlier this year, Judge Trapp said public financing for judicial elections is “something that needs to be looked at,” and it has “been very successful in North Carolina. But we have a budget issue, so we have to be realistic about that.” You can read more about her views by clicking here for other Gavel Grab posts, or you can visit here to learn about Justice Moyer’s election reform ideas.

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Ohio Court Candidate Comments in Gavel Grab


Gavel Grab and Justice at Stake Campaign do not endorse candidates in judicial elections. Having said that, we were happy to get a note from Ohio Judge Mary Jane Trapp, who is seeking a seat on the Ohio Supreme Court, responding to a Gavel Grab post about the upcoming race and offering YouTube links with her comments on judicial elections and on recusal rules.

Judge Trapp called herself “a religious reader” of Gavel Grab. One YouTube video link that she sent includes her answers to press questions and her comments about efforts to make judicial elections “more inclusive and more balanced and more open.” Another YouTube link gives her announcement remarks at a press conference.

Judge Trapp said public financing for judicial elections is “something that needs to be looked at,” and it has “been very successful in North Carolina. But we have a budget issue, so we have to be realistic about that.”  She noted that Ohio voters have rejected a merit system for selecting judges, and she was disappointed that when the state Supreme Court had an opportunity to pass stronger rules governing recusal of judges, the matter was taken off the table. “I intend to bring it back to the court’s attention,” she added.

The judge, with Democratic backing, is seeking a seat held by Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger, whose term expires at the end of 2010. Ohio’s Supreme Court is all Republican.

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Ohio Judge Hits Special Interest Donations

Judge Mary Jane Trapp, who wants to win a seat on the Ohio Supreme Court next year, already is zeroing in on special interest influence.

“You can understand how Ohioans question judicial outcomes because of the appearance of sizable campaign contributions from the business and insurance industry,” Trapp was quoted as saying in a  Cleveland Plain Dealer article. She was talking about  industries that have backed the all-Republican justices overwhelmingly, the newspaper said.

“People think that affects [court] decisions,” Trapp added. “So, it doesn’t really matter. Perception becomes reality.”

Trapp recently announced her candidacy for a seat held by Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger, whose term expires at the end of 2010.

Lanzinger defended the court, saying each member was intent on impartiality.

“We’re not the General Assembly. People need to understand the General Assembly has Republican and Democratic votes. But we do not,” Lanzinger told the newspaper.

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Monday Media Summary


National Journal: Campaign Money And The Chief Justice
Stuart Taylor Jr. – Sept. 19, 2009

Asheville Citizen-Times: Giving corporate money more clout in elections is scary Jim Buchanan – September 20, 2009


NY Times: Court Backs Outside Groups‚ Political Spending
DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK – September 18, 2009

Washington Post: Federal Appeals Court Voids Campaign Finance Reform Rules Del Quentin Wilber and Dan Eggen – September 19, 2009

NPR: Appeals Court Decision: Is McCain-Feingold Now On The Ropes?
Ken Rudin – September 18, 2009


What About Clients?: Is that an elected county judge in your pocket? Or are you just hugely happy to see me? Rob Bodine – September 21, 2009

State Bar of Wisconsin: Abrahamson argues merits of judicial elections outweigh those of appointment system Alex De Grand – Sept.18, 2009 Read more

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Major Ohio Judicial Election on Horizon?

Ohio has had some of the nation’s most expensive Supreme Court elections. Now it may be getting ready for another one.

Judge Mary Jane Trapp has announced her candidacy for a seat on the Supreme Court, with backing from Gov. Ted Strickland and the state Democratic Party, according to a report in Columbus Business First. Judge Trapp is presiding judge for Ohio’s 11th District Court of Appeals in Warren. The Supreme Court seat is held by Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger. Her term expires at the end of 2010.

Ohio’s Supreme Court is all-Republican. Trapp said in a statement that she has talked to Ohio citizens who “want to have confidence again in their courts.” The governor issued a statement praising her credentials and saying the court would benefit if it were not in single-party control.

Ohio’s Republican Party cited a “scathing” dissent that was  critical of Judge Trapp and written by a fellow appeals court judge, according to the news report, which also noted that the dissent’s author is married to a Republican state senator.