Gavel Grab

JAS, Brennan Center Release Final Wisconsin TV Estimate

One state down. Twenty more to elect members of their high court by November.  JAS and the Brennan Center today released final numbers on television advertising in the April 1 Wisconsin Supreme Court election. The wrap is here in our joint news release. In sum: over $3.6 million spent on TV; 89 percent of the spending was by interest groups; and 59 percent of the total TV spending was behind challenger and victor Gableman, compared to only 41 percent for Butler. One additional figure not mentioned specifically in the release: Wisconsinites saw over 11,000 TV ads about either Louis Butler or Michael Gableman. Since 2006, only one other state, Alabama, has seen more…and Alabama had FOUR seats up for election at the same time.

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4/9/08: The JAS News

Elections for Judges Are Getting Nastier – US News & World Report
More national attention on the bitter judicial election races around the country with a focus on the Wisconsin Supreme Court election from last week.

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Wisconsin Election Aftermath: An Opinion Round-Up

Not surprisingly there is no shortage of opinion about what the recent Supreme Court election in Wisconsin means. Here’s a rapid-fire round up from bloggers and editorialists: The Wall Street Journal editorial page embraces both the process and the results, and apparently makes no bones about plainly misrepresenting a statement from Wisconsin’s governor, a point acknowledged even at ShopFloor, the blog of the National Association of Manufacturers. That kerfuffle prompted a post on Althouse, including lots of back and forth in the comments section. Less sanguine views of the process are not in short supply: the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and the Daily Cardinal are fine examples, as is this posting on the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign’s Big Money blog. Andrew Cohen, the legal analyst for CBS News, expressed his disgust for the campaign even before the polls had closed.

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Wisconsin Voters Choose Gableman

Wisconsin voters ousted Justice Louis Butler on Tuesday. It’s the first time in more than 40 years an incumbent seeking election has been defeated. Initial write-ups on the election results are at the Wisconsin State Journal and the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. One item of note: voter turn-out was estimated at 20 percent, perhaps a reflection of the negative tenor of the race. Watch for more reaction and analysis from JAS and the Brennan Center shortly.

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Secret Money in the Mountain State

The West Virginia Associated Press is reporting that a special interest group “wants to run television and radio ads targeting West Virginia’s upcoming Supreme Court elections, but doesn’t want to disclose how much it spends or who is footing the bill.” That might sound like old news, given that an energy executive spent about $3.5 million of his own money in the state’s now-notorious 2004 Supreme Court campaign. West Virginia voters were treated to thousands of television ads attacking a judge for being soft on crime. Only after the votes were counted did they find out who paid for all that advertising—and that the sponsor had millions of dollars at stake in cases pending before the West Virginia Supreme Court, but no real interest in criminal justice.

After that race, the West Virginia legislature passed an electioneering communications law, requiring any group that runs advertising for or against candidates for state office disclose who is paying (if they refer to a clearly identified candidate and appear within a certain number of days of an election). Apparently the Center for Individual Freedom, the group bringing a lawsuit against this fair-play rule, wants to support or oppose at least one candidate for the Court, but they don’t want to reveal who is writing their checks. They’ve already started filming the ads, and if not for such pesky disclosure laws and “the injury they threaten, the Center would be proceeding with its ads right now.”

As injuries go, this doesn’t sound like ER. Just to be clear, here: no one is being censored, no one’s right to speak freely is being curtailed, no TV ads are being yanked off the air. The law is simple: say what you will, just tell the voters who’s doing the paying. Unless you spend the day at the beach without tanning lotion, sunlight doesn’t hurt.

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Back and Forth in the Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal has posted two opinion pieces in three days on the state of America’s judicial elections.  This weekend’s edition includes this overview piece from James Sample of the Brennan Center (and a contributor to Gavel Grab).  On Thursday, the Journal ran this piece by an editorial columnist.

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3/20/08: What the Blogs Say…

A Quick Overview of the Supreme Court’s 8 Cert Grants – ACS Blog
A look at the cases the Supreme Court have granted certs for next term.

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3/19/08: JAS Under Attack!

Who is Buying the Vote in Minnesota’s Judicial Reform Debate? – American Courhouse
Dan Pero is making his rounds to each state in the midwest that has the audacity to change their Judicial elections. He is also blaming the Justice at Stake campaign. Since this is not dissimilar from his previous statement in Michigan, here is Bert Brandenburg, Justice at Stake’s Executive Director, reply to Mr. Pero.

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

 

Two interesting items out of Washington state today that don’t have to do with flooding or helicopter evacuations.

First, two state judges have an op-ed in the Seattle Times criticizing the recent political spat between Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani over a recent controversial ruling by a Romney appointee in Massachusetts.Judge Steve Leben of Kansas and Judge Kevin Burke of Minnesota argue that “no judge should be judged on the basis of a single opinion or judgment unless that ruling shows an utter disregard for the rights of the parties or the judge’s obligation under the law.So far, there is no reason to believe that Judge Tuttman’s decision fits either category.”

Second, yesterday brought a highly-anticipated appointment to the Washington Supreme Court.Gov. Chris Gregoire has appointed an appeals court judge from Spokane, Judge Debra Stephens, to the seat being vacated by Justice Bobbe Bridge.The appointment was being watched in large part because the new appointee will have to stand for election in less than a year, and judicial campaigns in Washington have been getting rougher and more negative with each passing election cycle.The Olympia desk of the Associated Press notes: “Justice for Washington, an activist group headed by former Sen. Slade Gorton, complained that Stephens has a long history of promoting the views of the state’s trial lawyers. “A more moderate appointment would have been preferable,” Gorton said.

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