Gavel Grab

Trial Lawyers Give Generously to GOP Candidate in Alabama

With Republicans firmly in control of the Alabama Supreme Court after a decade of costly election contests, the dynamics of Alabama judicial election spending appear to be changing.

Roy Moore (photo), the Republican candidate for chief justice this year, is receiving strong financial backing from plaintiff trial lawyers, more typically a foe of mainstream Republican jurists, according to a Birmingham News article. It prominently quoted analysis and historical data from Justice at Stake, and the article was spotted and excerpted by a national publication, Politico.

“Democrats, at least for now, have left the field in Alabama,” Charles Hall, a spokesman for the nonpartisan organization, told the Birmingham News. Democrats are not fielding viable candidates for the court, and the struggle for control has shifted, he said, and is between factions in the Republican Party.

“Just as there has been a tremendous battle for the soul of the national Republican Party,” Hall said, “there clearly is a similar battle for the soul of the Alabama Supreme Court.”

Alabama has become known for holding the nation’s most costly state Supreme Court elections between 2000 and 2009 (see Gavel Grab), with total spending reaching almost $44 million.

Moore, a former chief justice, was removed from his post in 2003 over a controversy involving the Ten Commandments monument that he installed in the Alabama Judicial Building. Moore had declined to comply with a federal judge’s order to remove the monument.

In June, Moore’s campaign drew more than $46,000 from individual plaintiff trial lawyers or their firms, or 45 percent of its fundraising for the month. Of the $310,000 total that Moore has raised so far, plaintiff lawyers have given about $55,000.

He is an unconventional candidate, the article noted. It said “the bulk” of his campaign war chest comes from supporters residing in more than three dozen states, with some of them donating as little as $5. In addition, more than half of his campaign cash before the March primary came from Michael Peroutka, a past presidential candidate for the Constitution Party in 2004.

In another reflection of changing political spending, the political action committee for the Business Council of Alabama has not pumped any cash into the chief justice race. The committee is named Progress PAC; it has given $6 million to Republican court candidates since 2000. Between 2000 and 2009, it ranked third nationally among high court election “super spenders,”  according to Justice at Stake.

During that period, the Alabama Democratic Party ranked second second in the nation among “super spenders” on judicial elections, Justice at Stake reported in a report it co-authored with partner groups, entitled “The New Politics of Judicial Elections 2000-2009.”

 

 

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