Gavel Grab

2/27/08: Justice at Stake in West Virgina; Who Would Barack Obama Nominate for the Supreme Court?; and More…

Clean elections update in West Virginia– West Virginia Blue
The fight for Clean Elections in West Virginia are underway and being helped by Justice at Stake’s own, Eamonn Donovan.

Who Would Barack Obama Nominate to the Supreme Court?– The Volokoh Conspiracy
This blog post compiles a set of quotes by Sen. Barack Obama concerning who he would nominate to the Supreme Court if he were to be elected president of the United States.

Pay for campaigns with public money– Jackson City Patriot
An editorial discussing the need for Public Financing of Supreme Court Campaigns in Michigan.

Another amendment, another hearing, more of the same debate on the judicial selection process– Prime Buzz
Another day, another hearing about Judicial Selection in Missouri’s legislature. And just like before, not much will come out of it again.

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What Would a President McCain Do?

Conservatives question what a President McCain might do regarding federal judicial nominations given the Senator’s pivotal role in the so-called Gang of 14 back in 2005.

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2/19/08 – WV SC Candidates Get Mixed Up with Massey, Sentencing Laws Gone Wrong, Scalia Is Vocal Too Soon on Torture, Concerns Over Rep. SC Nominees, Guantanamo Still in the Spotlight

Beth Walker tries to explain ties to Don Blankenship in Supreme Court race – The Charleston Daily Mail
Beth Walker, currently running for a seat on the West Virginia Supreme Court, is claiming that she did not have discussions about her campaign with Massey Energy chief Don Blankenship.

Complicated sentencing laws blamed for long prison stays – Los Angeles Times
The thousands of incorrect release dates for state prisoners result from a series of decisions by the California Supreme Court and two state appeals courts between May 2005 and January 2006.

Before court issues opinion, Scalia may have voiced his – The Associated Press
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia recently made a statement regarding the use of torture on terrorism suspects, which has made many question his ability to rule fairly in the terrorism cases currently facing the Supreme Court.

Judicial balance – The Baltimore Sun
The Baltimore Sun expresses its concern with Senator John McCain’s recent emphasis on his willingness to nominate conservative judges like Roberts and Alito, which may further threaten the state of civil rights in the country.

Can there be justice in Guantanamo Bay? – The London Times
The senior legal adviser at Human Rights Watch voices concerns over the Bush administration’s failed attempts at serving justice at Guantanamo.

Click here for more news on fair and impartial courts issues from the Brennan Center for Justice E-lerts.

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2/6/08 – Minority Enrollment at Law School Drops, Bush Throws New Wrench in Guantanamo Cases, WI Needs Merit Selection Now More Than Ever, Pres. Candidates on Fed. Judicial Appointments

Minority Enrollment at Law Schools Is Faltering – The National Law Journal
Columbia Law School’s new minority enrollment tracking web site shows that minority enrollment is down and may continue to drop.

A 2nd Case on Detainees Complicates Deliberations – The New York Times
Months after the Supreme Court heard Boumediene v. Bush, the Administration says it will file an emergency appeal at the court, seeking review of a lower-court ruling that the government must supply more information to defend its designation of a detainee as an enemy combatant.

Dollars and debate take their toll – The Wisconsin State Journal
The Wisconsin State Journal’s Editorial Board argues that last weeks heated debate between two candidates running for the state Supreme Court only strengthens the argument for merit selection.

Good Judgment – The Wall Street Journal
A survey conducted by the Federalist Society asks the presidential candidates how they would approach the appointments of hundreds of federal judges. Three candidates, including John McCain, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul replied to the survey.

Click here for more news on fair and impartial courts issues from the Brennan Center for Justice E-lerts.

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1/23/08 – GOP Primary Means Open Season on Judiciary, Special Interests in IL, WV SC Judge Investigates His Collegue, IA Gov. Lights a Fire Under the SC, Arson Charges Mysteriously Dropped for TX SC Justce

Fred Thompson Blasts Mike Huckabee on Abortion, Constitution Comments – Life News
Fred Thompson accused Mike Huckabee of using “code words for judicial activism”, to which Huckabee replied by stating he opposes liberal judicial activism and abhors the idea of unelected judges making decisions on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. And just so he didn’t feel left out, Mitt Romney made a statement that he, too believes that “unelected judges should not be the final arbiters on these important decisions which define who we are as a people.”

Lawyer’s deep pockets in Ill. judicial race raise hackles – The St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Cindi Canary of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform weighs in on the effects of special interest fundraising in judicial elections.

Justice Seeks Probe in Massey Case – The Associated Press
Justice Larry Starcher sent a memo to the West Virginia Supreme Court administrator regarding serious ethical concerns over Chief Justice Maynard’s relationship with the chief executive officer of Massey Energy Co.

Iowa Gov. Tells High Court To Speed Gay Marriage Ruling – 365 Gay
Iowa Gov. Chet Culver requests that the state Supreme Court expedite its ruling on same-sex marriage and announces that legislative action will be taken if the courts rule in favor of same-sex marriage.

Texas grand jurors outraged by politics of justice – The LA Times
The Texas jury that convicted Republican Justice David Medina last week of arson is speaking out now that District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal, also a Republican, dropped all charges against Medina.

Click here for more news on fair and impartial courts issues from the Brennan Center for Justice E-lerts.

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When Will Courts Become an Issue in Presidential Politics?

America’s courts have been frequent targets of political attacks in recent years. Surprisingly, I’d argue, they have yet to become much of an issue in the Presidential primaries (with one notable exception), where, you’d think, red-meat politics would be stoked by controversial court rulings. Recently we got two reminders that courts are still relevant in the primaries, because judges can’t dodge tough decisions. First, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that MSNBC could exclude Rep. Dennis Kucinich from a Democratic candidates debate in Las Vegas. The same day, all the way across the country, a federal court in Washington ruled that TV ads promoting a film critical of Sen. Hillary Clinton are subject to federal campaign finance laws. Neither decision is likely to reshape the presidential race, but the decisions do serve as reminders that the U.S. Supreme Court will be ruling on any number of controversial cases in coming weeks and months, and those rulings are likely to become front and center in campaign rhetoric.

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1/8/08 – 2008 GOP Candidates Hoard the Judicial Issues, Term Limits All Around, Dangerous Judicial Evaluation Commissions

Republicans Court Voters, Democrats Silent on the Courts – The Huffington Post
Why are the courts an issue for Republicans only? What do the Democrats think about the third branch of government?

Conservative activist will again try for term limits for judges – The Associated Press
Colorado conservative activist John Andrews is reviving his attempt to put term limits on state judges.

Weaver suggests term limits for Michigan Supreme Court judges – The Associated Press
Michigan Republican Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Weaver wants to set an 8 year term limit for the bench.

Viewpoint: The inherent danger of judicial evaluation commissions – The Financial News & Daily Record – FL
Justice Charles T. Wells of the Florida Supreme Court lays out his objections to judicial evaluation commissions.

New Wash. state Supreme Court justice formally sworn in – The Associated Press
Debra L. Stephens is sworn in as Washington state’s newest Supreme Court Justice

Click here for more news on fair and impartial courts issues from the Brennan Center for Justice E-lerts.

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1/2/08 – Impeachment Threats in 2 States, the Next Pres. and the SC, Recusal Refusal, Judging Judges

Supreme Court’s future up for grabs in 2008 – The Topeka Capital-Journal
Judith Schaeffer, Legal Director for People For the American Way, examines the effect the next President will have on the Supreme Court.

Move to impeach federal judge is a rarity – The Times-Picayune – LA
U.S. District Judge Thomas Porteous has been recommended for impeachment by a federal appellate court because of alleged ethical lapses.

Oregon Domestic Partnership Law Halted – The Associated Press
U.S. District Judge Michael W. Mosman has placed a hold on Oregon’s domestic partner law that was set to take effect January 1.

Judge refuses to step down from courthouse shooting case – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Superior Court Judge Hilton Fuller has refused to recuse himself in the death penalty trial of accused gunman in the Fulton County Courthouse shooting in 2005.

N.H. House conservatives initiate impeachment against Coffey – The Associated Press
Democratic Gov. John Lynch and NH House Republicans are calling for Rockingham County Superior Court Judge Patricia Coffey to resign, or face impeachment.

Judging N.C. judges: State needs a way to assess their courtroom performance – The Charlotte Observer
NC courtroom watchdog group, Court Watch, calls for a statewide evaluation process for state trial and appellate judges.

Butler will be busy: Next election for justice spot likely to be costly, and hotly contested – The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Wisconsin is predicting a tight and difficult race in 2008 for Supreme Court Justice. Since this article was published, Charlie Schutze has pulled out of the race because of medical issues.

Click here for more news on fair and impartial courts issues from the Brennan Center for Justice E-lerts.

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Bah Humbug! December’s Courthouse Scrooges

Can you guess who crossed the Constitution’s checks and balances off their gift list this year? Click below to find out who are this season’s Scroogiest court-bashers.

1) “…We are living in an America that has suffered from 47 years of a judicial war against American freedom of religion.”

2) “this [Presidential] election should be about and must be about our “Two Supreme Courts” — one that puts America and Americans first, and the other that doesn’t. Because in our ongoing War on Terror, the latter Supreme Court could be our most dangerous enemy, not to mention the most powerful friend the terrorists have.”

3) “The Ninth Circuit is notoriously hostile to religion, so it may give us another anti-Pledge decision. Atheism has spread in influence to where it controls many federal courts, many public schools, and now even Hollywood, with the atheistic movie “The Golden Compass” promoted for Christmastime entertainment….The results in these cases point the way for Congress to save the Pledge of Allegiance: withdraw jurisdiction from the Courts over acknowledgment-of-God cases such as by passing the We the People Act”

And just in time for your Christmas shopping…

4) Help! Mom! The Ninth Circuit Nabbed the Nativity
The Christmas installment of the popular “HELP! MOM!” series pokes fun at liberal Scrooges who spoil everyone’s Christmas fun.

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Questions for the Presidential Candidates

The American Judicature Society has published an editorial containing questions for presidential candidates on important issues affecting the administration of justice. The editorial appears in the November-December 2007 issue of Judicature, the journal of AJS, and is available online. The questions seek candidates’ views in five areas: access to justice, federalism, judicial selection, sentencing policy, and the independence of the Department of Justice. By issuing this editorial early in the primary season, AJS hopes to elicit responses from candidates and discussion among members of the media and the public about issues that impact all Americans but have received too little attention thus far during the presidential campaign.

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