JAS on Illinois Court Retention Election: ‘Here We Go Again’

Screen shot 2014-10-29 at 11.25.59 AMWith Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier facing opposition in his retention election from a group heavily funded by plaintiffs’ lawyers, the Republican State Leadership Committee has jumped into the race and spent $950,000 in support of Karmeier, the Chicago Tribune reported. (The article is available through Google.)

“Here we go again,” Justice at Stake Executive Director Bert Brandenburg told the Tribune. Illlinois again has become a battleground state in a “long-running war being fought between plaintiffs’ lawyers and big business” over high courts, the newspaper said, mentioning a record $9.3 million spent when Justice Karmeier was elected in 2004.

Screen shot 2014-10-29 at 11.29.10 AMThe contest has featured fierce advertising. A TV ad aired by Campaign for 2016, the opposition group, said that Justice Karmeier received millions from pro-business interests in 2004 then voted to strike down huge verdicts against State Farm and Philip Morris. “Our justice is not for sale,” the narrator said at its end. The RSLC-sponsored ad says the justice has been tough on violent criminals and stood up to “Chicago trial lawyers who have tried to buy the courts.”

The Michigan Supreme Court contest was featured in a Detroit News article, meanwhile, headlined, “Eight candidates fight for 3 court seats.” It said nearly $3 million in TV ads had been spent as of Oct. 20, according to JAS.

“Michigan has become a national symbol of an arms race that is putting pressure on judges to answer to political pressure instead of the law and constitution,” the News quoted Brandenburg of JAS as saying.

“Michigan is again leading the charge on TV ad spending in judicial elections,” said Alicia Bannon, counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice. “…We need to insulate judges and candidates from election politics so people trust that Michigan’s courts are fair and impartial.” The Brennan Center is a JAS partner organization.