Only a week before Wisconsin’s Supreme Court primary, TV advertising continues to be dominated by the Wisconsin Alliance for Reform, which has booked contracts worth at least $399,060, Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice reported on Tuesday.
The Alliance’s advertising supports incumbent Justice Rebecca Bradley. She faces Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Joe Donald and State Court of Appeals Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg in the primary. Kloppenburg began airing TV ads in recent days and has booked contracts worth at least $96,276; Donald also began airing TV ads this week and has booked contracts worth at least $31,790. The ads can be viewed on the Brennan Center’s “Buying Time” website.
Reported ad spending is likely to go significantly higher by primary day, and there have been local media reports that spending by the Wisconsin Alliance for Reform could go as high as $1 million.
“Year after year, deep-pocketed special interests push their way into state high court elections with heavy ad spending, and agendas as mysterious as their donor lists,” said Liz Seaton, JAS Interim Executive Director. “Wisconsinites are rightly concerned, and this could be a very good time for election reforms to take politics and campaign cash out of their courts.” Read more
The race for Arkansas Chief Justice is becoming a slugfest, with election bankrolling a pivotal issue. Associated Press and Arkansas Online articles, quoting Justice at Stake about a group’s record-setting outside TV ad spending critical of Justice Courtney Goodson, now report that the Goodson campaign has slammed its opposition.
Goodson is opposed by Circuit Judge Dan Kemp. The Goodson campaign said about TV ad expenditures by the Judicial Crisis Network that were critical of Goodson, “If Dan Kemp lacks the integrity to stop them, it’s a sign to every secret interest group in the country that Arkansas’ courts are for sale.” The incumbent’s campaign added, “Outside groups are not welcome in this race, and Dan Kemp should stop using dark money to buy a seat on our Supreme Court.”
As JAS and the Brennan Center for Justice reported on Monday (see Gavel Grab), TV advertising sponsored by the Washington-based JCN targets Goodson as an “insider” who accepts money from trial lawyers. (The Brennan Center is a JAS partner organization.) Read more
In these other dispatches about fair and impartial courts:
- Gavel to Gavel, a publication of the National Center for State Courts, reported, “Arizona: Plan Calls for Public Financing of Superior Court Races in Counties Not Using Merit Selection System, However Bill Would Eliminate Public Financing for all Other Races.”
- Regarding an ongoing election method controversy (see Gavel Grab) in St. Clair County, Illinois, MadisonRecord.com had an article titled, “Judges seek to make things easy on themselves while undermining spirit of law, Dallas Cook argues; Hearing set Feb. 19.”
An unusual judicial election episode is unfolding in Nevada. Las Vegas Municipal Judge Catherine Ramsey is awaiting a decision from the state Supreme Court as to whether a recall effort against her is lawful. Meanwhile North Las Vegas City Attorney Sandra Douglass Morgan apparently has launched an active campaign for the seat, while the public is generally in the dark about her donors, The Las Vegas Review Journal reports.
An official in the Nevada Secretary of State’s office told the newspaper that after checking out relevant laws, the office concluded Morgan is not obliged to disclose her fundraising at this time. With its article, the newspaper published an image of what it said was a flier promoting a recent Morgan fundraiser at a hotel and casino. Read more
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has signed legislation to keep the entire state court system funded, following an end to a legal dispute over court funding.
This funding was jeopardized by legislation passed last year, widely viewed by defenders of fair and impartial courts as a political attack on the judiciary (see Gavel Grab for background).
More recently the legislature voted to repeal the controversial provision stating that if the courts struck down a statute that removed authority of the Supreme Court to name district court chief judges, Read more
The TV ad air wars are heating up in the three-way Wisconsin Supreme Court primary, scheduled for Feb. 16. Milwaukee County Judge Joe Donald is launching a TV ad, Court of Appeals Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg has advertising up, and advertising sponsored by the Wisconsin Alliance for Reform is supportive of Justice Rebecca Bradley.
Donald’s ad says politics should be kept out of the courts, according to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article. Kloppenburg’s ad says Bradley is “backed to the hilt” by conservative special interests, the Associated Press reports. The AP also mentions spending by Wisconsin Alliance for Reform of more than $234,000 on advertising in support of Bradley, based on data collected by Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice.
The Bradley campaign meanwhile criticized its foes, saying the incumbent had “run a positive campaign from day one” and now it was disappointed “that our opponents feel compelled to attack Justice Bradley at every opportunity.” Read more
Judicial Crisis Network, based in Washington, D.C., has purchased more TV ad contracts in the race for Arkansas Supreme Court Chief Justice, bringing its total ad buys to date to $336,245, Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice reported on Monday.
This more than doubles the previous high for outside spending in an Arkansas Supreme Court race, which was $164,560. That is according to Bankrolling the Bench, an examination of spending in all state Supreme Court races in 2013-14 by JAS, the Brennan Center, and the National Institute on Money in State Politics.
A JCN-sponsored ad that has begun airing targets incumbent Justice Courtney Goodson as an “insider” who accepted money from trial lawyers. Ads may be viewed on the Brennan Center’s “Buying Time” website. Meanwhile, TV ad contracts booked by the Goodson campaign have risen to $104,805, according to FCC records. Read more
In these other dispatches about fair and impartial courts:
- Election Law Blog has reported, “3-Judge Federal Court Strikes Down 2 North Carolina Congressional Districts as Racial Gerrymanders.”
- Timothy J. Sullivan, former president of the College of William & Mary and former dean of its law school, wrote a Richmond.com opinion piece urging the General Assembly to elect, not remove, Virginia Justice Jane Marum Roush (see Gavel Grab for background).
- Gavel to Gavel, a publication of the National Center for State Courts, has an article titled, “Citing ‘State Sovereignty,’ Arizona House Cmte to Vote This Week to Prohibit State Courts From Enforcing/Recognizing Federal Court decisions; Mo. & Tn. Considering Similar Bans.”
The Providence Journal reports that a bill outlining diversity requirements for the membership of Rhode Island’s Judicial Nominating Commission was submitted last week.
The measure, proposed by Democratic state Rep. Anastasia Williams, would require that the governor and lawmakers ensure that the membership reflects the gender and ethnic makeup of the state. According to the newspaper, “The nine-member panel currently has one member of color, Cheryl S. Haynes, a human resources executive with RBS Citizens Financial Group.” Read more
Tags: Rhode Island
In an opinion piece for the Indiana Business Journal, Ted Boehm, a retired Indiana Supreme Court Justice, highlights what he considers hidden problems in a newly proposed plan for picking Marion County judges (see Gavel Grab for background).
While backing certain objectives of the plan, Boehm describes the commission’s proposed capacity to determine whether judges are qualified to stand for retention as “unwise, if not unconstitutional,” that would in effect “authorize the commission to remove sitting judges.”
The proposed commission will be bipartisan, with members selected by Democratic and Republican legislators and party leaders. But Boehm says this will only exacerbate the problem because it will mean the “power to remove and appoint judges lies in the hands of political appointees.” Read more