With varying proposals floated to change the way Arkansas Supreme Court justices are chosen, columnist John Brummett seeks to bring some context in a Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette opinion.
First, he suggests, the Arkansas Trial Lawyers Association wants to preserve the election of justices because trial lawyers prefer competing in the judicial election arena with a force that they know, the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce. “That’s what state Supreme Court races largely come down to: Money from suing lawyers versus money from defending businesses,” Brummett writes. He contends this system doesn’t result in justice for all, and that merit selection would be a big improvement, although it may not be adopted.
Regarding requirements for the disclosure of “dark money” political spending on judicial elections, he takes aim at disclosure critic David Ray, of the Americans for Prosperity group in the state. At a hearing, Ray “said transparency should be applied to government, not to persons exercising free expression to influence government,” according to Brummett. “By that reckoning, no campaign contribution of any amount or in any form should be ever disclosed as a requirement of law.”
“Privacy in political expression–it’s an interesting concept. I think I’ll ask the editors to start running this column without a byline or mug shot.” To learn more about big spending and dark money in the latest Arkansas Supreme Court election, and the ensuing debate about reform, see Gavel Grab.