Gavel Grab

JAS: Five Years Later, Message of 'Caperton' Even Stronger

On June 8, 2009, the Supreme Court delivered its landmark Caperton v. Massey decision about the threat to impartial courts posed by runaway judicial election spending. On Friday, marking the ruling’s upcoming fifth anniversary, Justice at Stake Executive Director Bert Brandenburg said Caperton’s message “has only grown stronger”:

“Since Caperton was decided in 2009, a crisis of confidence in the judiciary has escalated, not receded. In Caperton, the Supreme Court of the United States prodded states that elect judges to do something about the threat to justice posed by special interest spending that can influence decisions in the courtroom. Yet since then, too few states have enacted or even considered meaningful measures to keep cash out of the courtroom.

“The threat to impartial courts has grown since Citizens United in 2010. Special interest money has flooded into judicial elections through outside channels. Now, almost nine of 10 Americans believe that campaign cash is affecting courtroom decisions.

“Caperton’s message has only grown stronger: Every state that elects its judges needs to take steps to ensure that justice is not for sale. These measures could include a range of steps, including stronger recusal and disclosure rules, and providing public financing for judicial elections—or adopting a merit selection system as an alternative to contested elections.​”

To read the entire Justice at Stake statement, click here. To learn more about Caperton, see the JAS resource page about the case or read about news coverage and commentary in Gavel Grab.

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