Gavel Grab

JAS to Senators: Consider Impact of Citizens United on Courts

Americans’ confidence in fair and impartial courts is eroded when special interests flood judicial elections with campaign money, Justice at Stake warned in a letter to leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Bert Brandenburg, executive director of Justice at Stake, wrote the letter in connection with a hearing held by the committee this week on the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and the federal Voting Rights Act. The letter emphasized the impact of Citizens United on elected state judiciaries, which it called an often overlooked area.

“Over the past 10 years, we have witnessed judicial elections grow increasingly expensive and alarmingly politicized,” Brandenburg wrote. Citizens United and other campaign finance decisions have “laid down the conditions for such distressingly large sums to increase further,” he added.

The letter mentioned an amicus brief submitted by Justice at Stake in a recent Supreme Court case from Montana (see Gavel Grab) that ultimately affirmed Citizens United.

“[W]e continue to believe that at the very least,” Brandenburg wrote, “there should be a judicial elections carve-out, which would empower states to strike a balance between competing constitutional concerns — free speech rights versus the compelling state interest in ensuring a fair and impartial judiciary.”

The JAS letter was placed in the committee’s record of its hearing.

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