Gavel Grab

Coming Soon From JAS, Partner Groups: ‘Bankrolling the Bench’

Sales-Tax-money-gavelA comprehensive report on how deep-pocketed special interests “upped their game” in state Supreme Court elections in the last election cycle will be unveiled at an event on Oct. 29.

Justice at Stake, the Brennan Center for Justice, and the National Institute on Money in State Politics have co-authored Bankrolling the Bench: The New Politics of Judicial Elections 2013-14, and it will be presented and discussed at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

The report will disclose how national groups investing across multiple states joined local organizations in spending big to swing elections their way. It charts the latest trends and record-breaking spending on judicial races, examining how it all poses a grave threat to fair and impartial justice in America. You can click here to RSVP or if you have questions.

The Brennan Center and the National Institute on Money in State Politics are JAS partner organizations.

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Senate Confirms Seventh Judicial Nominee This Year

Capitol_domeThe Senate voted 69-21 to confirm President Obama’s nomination of Dale Drozd as a judge for the Eastern District of California. The judgeship has been vacant for 1,069 days, according to Huffington Post, and was deemed a “judicial emergency.”

It was the seventh confirmation of a judicial nominee this year. The Huffington Post article repeated a criticism that Republicans in control of the Senate are slow-walking judicial nominees for partisan gain. Republicans say that overall, the president is getting his nominees confirmed at a regular pace. Read more

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Georgia Governor Wants to Expand State Supreme Court

deal-headshot-cropGov. Nathan Deal of Georgia, saying demands on the state Supreme Court have grown along with the state, has proposed expanding the court from seven to nine members.

A commission is reviewing the proposal and will make recommendations to the legislature, which will return to business soon, according to a blog of The Atlanta Constitution. 

It is likely that critics in the legislature would call the Republican governor’s proposal “court packing.” If the legislature goes along with Deal’s proposal, it is possible that he could name a majority of the state court before he steps down from office.

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Tuesday Gavel Grab Briefs

In these other dispatches about fair and impartial courts

  • The Nevada Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the appeal of a municipal judge who is fighting an effort to recall her (see Gavel Grab for background), according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. 
  • Judges Kevin Dougherty and David Wecht were both to begin air TV ads on Tuesday in their campaigns for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the Associated Press reported. Gavel Grab has background. Seven candidates are running for three seats on the court.
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Three Seek Interim Appointment to Wisconsin Supreme Court

Three people, including two sitting judges, have applied to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for a vacancy on the state Supreme Court created by the recent death of Justice Patrick Crooks.

Those who applied for the vacancy are Appeals Court Judge Rebecca Bradley, Dane County Circuit Judge Jim Troupis and Madison lawyer Claude Covelli, the Associated Press reported. Bradley’s interest in the post was made public earlier; she is one of three declared candidates seeking election to the seat in 2016.

A Walker spokesman said the governor will talk to candidates for the appointment after hearing recommendations of those who conduct a first round of interviews, including his deputy legal counsel, the chair of the Judicial Selection Advisory Committee and a former committee member.

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Lawsuit Challenging KS Judiciary Defunding Law Now in U.S. Court

A challenge by four district court judges of a Kansas law threatening to defund the entire Kansas judiciary has been moved from state to federal court.

The Associated Press reported that Kansas moved the case, contending that the litigation constitutes a federal due process claim. The lawsuit is challenges a state law provision that critics say is the latest attack by elected Kansas officials on fair and impartial courts (see Gavel Grab).

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JAS, Brennan Center: First TV Ads in PA Court Race to Air Soon

With Election Day less than a month away, TV ads in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court election will begin airing in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice said.

Based on searches of Federal Communications Commission records, the groups said the campaign of Judge Kevin Dougherty, one of seven candidates running for three seats on the high court, has booked more than $32,000 worth of advertising on station WPXI.

“This is only the opening round in what we expect will be an intense ad battle in Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court election this fall,” said Liz Seaton, interim JAS executive director. “Total fundraising by candidates on all sides is well into the millions of dollars, and experience tells us that when campaign coffers are huge, spending on TV ads skyrockets.” Read more

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Opinion: ‘Crusade’ by Judges Needed to Rebuild Waning Trust

At a time of all-time low public trust in our courts, it’s imperative that judges from the Supreme Court in Washington to courthouses across America work to build trust, contends a past president of the American Judges Association.

“The ability of courts to be a strong voice in our democracy is dependent upon the trust the people have in the ability of judges to make fair decisions,” explains Hennepin County (Minnesota) District Judge Kevin Burke in a Minneapolis Star Tribune commentary.

Burke writes that “Part of the essence of an effective judiciary is respect for differing opinions on critical issues,” and he suggests it didn’t help when Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia used derisive language about the court when it found a right to marry for same-sex couples. He also says there is danger in the expenditure during the upcoming elections of billions of dollars for images that paint “impending apocalypse that will erode trust in government even more dramatically.” Read more

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Outside Spenders Eyed in Pennsylvania High Court Race

PennsylvaniaSupremeCourtIn a high-stakes race for three seats on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Democratic candidates have a lopsided fundraising edge over Republicans, and Republican leaders have their hands out.

If you include candidates in the primary, held earlier this year, Democrats have raised $6.4 million compared to $1.6 million raised by Republicans, the Associated Press reported. In the narrowed down field of nominees, Democrats raised $2.4 million in a reporting period that ended in mid-September, compared to $1.6 million for Republicans.

State GOP chairman Rob Gleason is looking for help from generous outside spenders. He “expects the national GOP will provide financial support and hopes for indirect assistance from national, conservative-leaning political groups, including billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch’s Americans for Prosperity, because of the political implications in a battleground state,” the AP said. Read more

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Politically Charged Issues Before High Court in New Term

washington-supreme-court-building-washington-d-c-dc169In its term that opened on Monday, the Supreme Court will consider politically charged and white-hot issues that affect millions of Americans.

As the presidential election cycle heats up, the court will be asked to decide cases, according to The New York Times, “including the fate of public unions and affirmative action in higher education. It will most probably hear its first major abortion case since 2007 and revisit the clash between religious liberty and contraception coverage.” Death penalty cases also will be considered. Read more

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