Gavel Grab

Thursday Gavel Grab Briefs

In these other dispatches on fair and impartial courts:

  • An Assembly Joint Resolution introduced on Wednesday in the Wisconsin Legislature would create a referendum on the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which essentially paved the way for unlimited corporate election spending. According to the Wisconsin Gazette, the resolution was created as a result of petitioning from a coalition of progressive organizations, including The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a Justice at Stake partner organization.
  • Among the first cases that U.S. Supreme Court will hear argued this fall are appeals concerning campaign finance and affirmative action. USA Today reports that  McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission will mark the first time that the court will hear arguments on campaign finance since Citizens United.

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Is Illinois Ready for Judicial Evaluation Commission?


Safeguarding U.S. Democracy: Promoting an Independent Judiciary and the League of Women Voters of Illinois present a public forum on the future of a Judicial Evaluation Commission in Illinois

States throughout the United States have created judicial performance commissions to utilize professional staff to conduct fair, responsible and constructive evaluations of trial and appellate judges and justices seeking retention in general elections. These evaluation results are then distributed widely to inform voters and to provide judges with information that they can use to improve their professional skills as judicial officers.  We will explore the question of whether a judicial performance commission will make a difference in Illinois.

Date: Monday, April 20, 2009
Time: 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Location: Law offices of Barack Ferrazzano Kirschbaum & Nagelberg LLP, 200 W. Madison Street, Suite 3900 , Chicago, IL 60606
Speakers: Jane B. Howell, Executive Director, Colorado Commissions on Judicial Performance
Dr. Laurie Bergner, League of Women Voters of Illinois
Cynthia Canary, Illinois campaign for Political Reform
Illinois State Representative Elizabeth Coulson
Michelle Jordan, League of Women Voters of Illinois
Edward Malone, Chicago Council of Lawyers
David Orr, Cook County Clerk
Malcom C. Rich, Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice and the Chicago Council of Lawyers
Illinois State Representative Kathleen A. Ryg
Partner Organizations: Chicago Council of Lawyers, Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice, Illinois Campaign for Political Reform

Three hours of MCLE Credit
Space is limited; RSVP required: or 312-988-6565

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NC's Public Financing System a Success

In one of the bright spots of the 2008 election system, North Carolina has shown once again that public financing of judicial races can work.

Two candidates for one Supreme Court seat and nine candidates for five Court of Appeals seats-11 of the 12 appellate  candidates on the ballot this year-opted into the state’s voluntary public financing system.  In all, the state fund provided $467,250  to the Supreme Court candidates while $1,440,000 was given to the Court of Appeals candidates. 

The official numbers have not yet been tabulated for this cycle to determine if the public financing system retarded the influence of outside money.  In 2004, the first election under the program, the percentage of total dollars given by attorneys and/or special-interest committees fell from 73% to just 14%.

Candidates must raise a certain amount of private funds during the primary to qualify. Candidates then can receive a lump sum grant to use in the general election, if they agree to abide by strict spending guidelines.

To read more about the North Carolina results, click here. To read an analysis of the Public Financing program’s performance in 2004, click here. 

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JAS Cited in Article on Alabama Race

Justice at Stake is quoted in an article by Bob Lowry, statehouse reporter for the Huntsville Times, on funding in a Supreme Court race in Alabama. To see the full article, click here. 

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3/21/08: The #1 Spot for Judicial News

Open Supreme Court to television cameras – The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
An editorial arguing that Read more…

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2/26/08: Justice at Stake in Wisconsin; Canada Same-Sex Marriage vs.The U.S.;

Campaigns push finance reform – The Badger Herald
Coverage of the Judicial Campaign fight in Wisconsin, with our very own Bert Brandenburg.

Canadian same-sex marriage faces U.S. challenge – Time’s Colonist
An interesting case concerning whether the US should honor same-sex marriages from Canada is discussed here.

Judicial candidates keeping varied war chests – The Brownsville Herald
Lower court Judicial elections in Mississippi is bringing in a lot of contributions.

High court to hear local warrantless case – The Arizona Daily Star
SCOTUS will be look at a case from Arizona to determine the limits of police warrantless searches.

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2/7/08 – Cal. Sets Date for Same-Sex Marriage Case, Mukasey Faces Questioning Today on CIA Tapes and Crack Sentencing, Election Reform Piques WV's Interest, TN Sees a Heated Down Ballot Race

Calif. Supreme Court schedules hearing on gay marriage – The Associated Press
The California State Supreme Court will hear the consolidated case challenging state laws prohibiting same-sex marriage on March 4 and will have 90 days to hand down a decision.

Justice attorneys may have known CIA had destroyed tapes – The Los Angeles Times
Newly surfaced documents relating to the Moussaoui case have turned up evidence that Justice Department attorneys knew of the destruction of CIA interrogation tapes since 2006. Attorney General Michael Mukasey will be appearing in front of the House Judiciary Committee today and will likely face questions about this new development.

Crack-Sentencing Reductions Decried – The Washington Post
Attorney General Michael Mukasey is expected to argue in against early releases for crack cocaine offenders because it will mean the release “among the most serious and violent offenders”.

Interest growing in court reform – The Herald-Dispatch
In light of recent controversies involving several West Virginia State Supreme Court Justices, judicial election reform and non-partisan elections are being seriously considered

Judicial race focuses on finances – The Daily Times
Judge David R. Duggan and Judge Mike Meares are both running for Blount County Division II Circuit Court in Tennessee, but the candidates are clashing on campaign finance.

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

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Campaign Finance Study in Louisiana

Tulane Law professor Vernon Palmer, along with Loyola University in New Orleans professor John Levendis and a few law students, will be publishing a study next month on the effects of campaign contributions on Louisiana Supreme Court justices.  The results are quite remarkable.  You can read about in today’s New York Times.

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1/28/08: The Never Ending Recusal Saga in W. Virginia Takes a New Turn; News from Texas;

More Recusal Requests at the West Virginia Supreme Court – Law Blog – Wall Street Journal
More fallout from the recusal scandal in West Virginia as more companies, who’s appeals are being heard by the West Virginia Supremes, are asking for Justice’s recusals.

The Supreme Court’s Approval Ratings and the Legitimacy of Judicial Review: – The Volokh Conspiracy
The Volokh Conspiracy continues on their discussion on the power of the courts.

Impeach Judge Hanson? – Waxing America
Insight into who is funding who in the Wisconsin Supreme Court election.

Texas Justice – ACS Blog
A new turn in the Texas?

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1/28/08 – $$$ in IL, MO Impeachment Threat, Gangs to Rule Chicago Judicial Election, Recusal Standards at Issue in WV

Expensive judicial race worries pundits; contest tops $1 million – The News-Democrat – IL
Two District Appellate Court candidates have broken the $1 million mark, which raises questions of where the money should come from and what effects it will have on the race and the winner once they are on the bench.

Mo. legislator wants judge to be impeached over custody ruling – The Associated Press
Laclede County Associate Circuit Judge Christine Hutson faces impeachment because of her recent ruling involving a former state senator’s daughter in which Judge Hutson awarded the father custody of three of their children.

Judge hires ex-’warlord’ – The Chicago Sun-Times
Cook County Judge Michael Hyman hired former Gangster Disciples member Wallace “Gator” Bradley to assist his reelection campaign with community relations and consulting.

Massey-Maynard photos highlight judicial recusal rule – The Associated Press
Calls for more justices to recuse themselves from the Massey Energy case raises the issue of who should determine if and when recusal is appropriate and what standards should be used to determine if a justice has a personal bias or prejudgment.

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

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