Bench Positions Costing
I remind you -
check the backgrounds on anyone running for any office - especially for the
position of JUDGE as they are the ones who will make the rules - not the
legislative body as it was meant to be. Watch out for WHO appointed
them.... many times that will tell you far more than anything
Judicial races increasingly
Attack ads, statements
on issues give many campaigns air of jurisimprudence
By William Glaberson; The New York Times
With touchstone issues like death penalty challenges, school financing and
changes in liability laws hanging in the balance, contests for state judgeships
around the country have become bruising multimillion-dollar political affairs
that critics say are threatening the independence of the nation's state
Millions of dollars in
campaign contributions are flowing into races for top state judgeships this
year, while candidates are testing the limits of rules that forbid them from
signaling how they might vote on cases, according to judicial candidates,
political consultants and lawyers across the country.
Attack advertising, the use of aggressive
political consultants and what are often only thinly veiled promises to sustain
or overturn controversial decisions are now established parts of
for seats on state courts.
campaigns are getting noisier, nastier and costlier," said Roy A. Schotland, an
expert on judicial politics who is a professor at Georgetown University Law
Center. "The amount of money being spent keeps escalating and the number of
states in which this is happening is
In Ohio this year, more
than $5 million and possibly as much as $12 million may be spent in a battle for
a single seat on the state Supreme Court. The campaign, one of the most
contested in the country, could shift the ideological balance of the
court. Twenty years ago, a campaign for the same court cost $100,000.
Races for state Supreme Courts in Michigan,
Illinois, Alabama, Idaho and other states are also drawing national attention.
Already this year, supreme court campaigns have included claims of race baiting,
dirty politics, catering to rich trial lawyers and abdication to business
The intensity of the races,
legal and political experts say, indicates that the big-dollar judicial
politicking that gained momentum in the 1980s with campaigns that ousted top
judges in Texas and California, among others, have now become entrenched parts
of the political system.
may be the polarization that has affected government at all levels, creating an
ever-more vibrant cottage industry in most cities of political consultants and
advisers. Also, as the federal government has become less ambitious in seeking
solutions to social problems, in the eras of Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton,
state courts have become battlegrounds for emotional issues like abortion,
health care and the financing of public schools. And many of those issues are
now starting to land in the state trial and appeals courts.
Efforts to limit liability lawsuits and damage
awards in many state legislatures - so-called tort-reform - also have
accelerated the political forces at work on state courts. The measures, which
often place a maximum on damage awards and otherwise limit recoveries by people
claiming injury, have spawned legal challenges in many state courts, which, in
turn, have spawned campaigns by trial lawyers and business groups to shift those
courts their way.
But the issues in
statewide judicial races are unpredictably diverse. In the Alabama race for
chief justice of the Supreme Court, for example, a candidate who posted the Ten
Commandments in his courtroom has built a huge following.
In the Idaho race last month, a trial judge
unseated an incumbent state Supreme Court justice for the first time since 1944
after an extraordinarily bitter campaign in which the eventual winner had
declared that the theory of evolution could not be true.
In Illinois, two Democratic judges vying for a
seat on the state Supreme Court this spring each spent $1 million in campaigns
that included pummeling each other in television advertising. One suggested the
other was responsible for sending "innocent
men to death row while killers
walk the street." The other warned voters that "one candidate has taken the low
In the new judicial politics,
judges sometimes appear as petty as other politicians - and as subject to
influence. In a boisterous $1.3 million campaign last year in Wisconsin, the
state's chief justice, Shirley S. Abrahamson, was forced to explain, for
example, why she had once allowed a late-night aerobics class in the court's
ornate hearing room. Abrahamson said the exercise class had been a "morale
builder" for her aides. She won re-election, although there was widespread
concern the court had been harmed by a campaign that divided the justices. Four
of her colleagues broke the unspoken precedent that typically keeps justices
outside the political fray and openly supported Abrahamson's well-financed
The four suggested they were
opposed to Abrahamson's management style, but there was also speculation that
one of the four would have liked to have succeeded her in the top spot.
Across the country, there are significant
consequences to judges taking on the persona of politicians, said Anthony
Champagne, a political science professor and expert on the judiciary at the
University of Texas at Dallas. In many states, until the 1980s, the appointment
or election of judges was arranged through quiet agreements among politicians
and bar associations. "It is a new system," said Champagne, "where lots of
money is involved, where judges are highly dependent on their political parties
and political operatives and where judges are tempted to make promises that
might affect their judicial decisions. It is something that is new in America
and it has the potential of being a really corrupting force."
The politicking is becoming increasingly
explicit. As the battle over changes in liability laws has moved into the courts
in the last few years, both business groups and their trial lawyer adversaries
have been increasingly open in describing the battle to win judgeships in bald
In a newsletter last
fall, for example, the Michigan Manufacturers Association told its members about
the importance of this year's state Supreme Court election. The newsletter
flatly outlined the group's political goal. In the last election, it boasted,
contributions from the manufacturers' political action committee "swayed the
Supreme Court election to a conservative viewpoint, ensuring a pro-manufacturing
In all, 42 states elect
judges at some level and more than 80 percent of all state appeals judges face
election, according to the American Bar Association.
© The New York
J.A.I.L. (Judicial Accountability Initiative Law)
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"There are a thousand hacking
at the branches of evil to one
who is striking at the root." --
Henry David Thoreau