Gavel Grab

Threat to Courts Cited in JAS, Retired Justices’ Brief

If Montana’s century-old anti-corruption law is overturned, the state “may find its courts once again bought by corporate special interests,” Justice at Stake and eight retired Montana Supreme Court justices warned in a friend-of-the-court brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court.

The case before the high court could lead to a reconsideration of Citizens United, and U.S. Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer have suggested their court pursue that course of action (see Gavel Grab).

“Enormous special interest expenditures in state judicial elections are threatening one of the Constitution’s most central guarantees–the right to due process and a fair trial,” the brief said. Maintaining fair, impartial courts “has been endangered by the surge in judicial campaign spending, creating the appearance and expectation that judges are beholden to special interests,” the brief said.

Bert Brandenburg, JAS executive director, said in a press release, “Americans want cases decided according to the law, not who wrote the biggest check.” He added, “States should be free to keep campaign cash out of the courthouse.”

American Tradition Partnership, an advocacy group, has challenged Montana’s law, which bans direct corporate spending on all state elections. The group says the statute conflicts with the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United decision. The Montana Supreme Court found the anti-corruption law constitutional, but the U.S. Supreme Court has temporarily blocked enforcement of that Montana ruling.

Justice at Stake and the retired justices said in their brief that the free-speech rights cited in Citizens United do not trump the public’s right to a fair trial. The brief asked the U.S. Supreme Court to deny review of the Montana high court decision, which would allow the state’s ban on corporate election spending to stand.

The brief said that protecting courts from special-interest influence was a key reason Montana enacted its Corrupt Practices Act. Open-ended spending on court elections raises public fears that “justice is for sale,” the brief added.

To read the brief, click here. To learn more about the Montana case before the Supreme Court, see Gavel Grab.

No comments

No comments yet. Be the first.

Leave a reply