State-enacted reforms to protect the integrity of their courts “now…are even more essential” in the wake of a Supreme CourtÂ decision boosting the clout of corporate and union cash in elections, a New York Times column says.
Headlined “Hanging a ‘For Sale’ Sign Over the Judiciary,” the column was written by Dorothy Samuels, a member of the Times’ editorial board. It is one of two fresh and important reports from nationally circulated publications focusing on the impact for states courts of the Citizens United decision; the second, by Tony Mauro in National Law Journal, suggests some judicial reformers actually have found a glimmer of hope after the 5-4 ruling.
Samuels posits that the threat to judicial independence posed by high-spending state judicial campaigns and by special-interest attack ads promises to get “worse, possibly much worse” thanks to the ruling. Her column offers data from Justice at Stake, tracking a dramatic increase in state Supreme Court election fundraisingÂ (calculated at $205.8 million between 2000 and 2009, compared to $84.9 million in the previous decade.)
Samuels quotes from Justice John Paul Stevens, who wrote in his dissent that these states “may no longer have the ability to place modest limits on corporate electioneering even if they believe such limits to be critical to maintaining the integrity of their judicial systems.â€
Not only will judicial candidates need to spend more time raising campaign money, but an escalating money war could lead to a polarized bench, she cautions. Samuels concludes by quoting retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor:
“To protect the integrity of their court systems, states need to enact basic reforms: switching from judicial elections, for instance, to the selection of judges on merit, or adopting strict rules that bar judges from ruling in cases involving major financial supporters. ‘No states can possibly benefit from having that much money injected into a political judicial campaign,’ Justice Oâ€™Connor said on Tuesday. Achieving these reforms wonâ€™t be easy, but now they are even more essential.” (more…)