Archive for the 'Justice at Stake' Category
Critics of a bill proposing changes to the way judges are appointed in Oklahoma say it would politicize the process. A Norman Transcript article about the bill cites Justice at Stake.
Among its provisions, the bill would require confirmation of a governor’s judicial appointees by a committee of House and Senate members, making it more like the federal confirmation process, the newspaper says. The bill is awaiting action by the full state Senate (see Gavel Grab for background).
“All you’ve got to do is look at what goes on in Washington right now. Is that what you want? Cause that is totally political. The judiciary has got to be independent,” said former Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Charles Johnson. Read more
It has taken time to restore the integrity of West Virginia’s courts, but that effort is proceeding apace and has been helped by the public financing of judicial elections, approved in 2010, writes the president of the West Virginia Association for Justice.
In a West Virginia Record commentary, Paige Flanigan cites Justice at Stake in discussing the impact of big spending and special interests on public confidence in fair and impartial courts:
“The problem is the ‘new politics of judicial elections.’ According to the national Justice at Stake campaign, ‘cash has become king in judicial elections’ and ‘elected Supreme Courts have been Ground Zero of an unprecedented money war.’ According to its figures, from 2000 – 2009 more than $206.4 million was raised by Supreme Court candidates nationally. That figure is double what was raised in the 1990s – and doesn’t include the millions more being spent in ‘independent’ campaigns. Public confidence in the impartiality of our courts has been damaged.”
Three candidates in a five-way race for the West Virginia Supreme Court have purchased television ad contracts worth a combined total of at least $274,140, Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice said on Thursday. The election will be held May 10.
TV ad contracts purchased by the campaign of former state legislator William “Bill” Wooton total at least $183,790; by incumbent Justice Brent Benjamin, at least $48,710; and by attorney Beth Walker, at least $41,640. No ad contracts have yet been recorded for two other candidates, attorney Wayne King and former state Attorney General Darrell McGraw, Jr.
“We’re seeing encouraging signs in West Virginia’s Supreme Court race so far,” said JAS Executive Director Susan Liss. “TV ad spending is not excessively high, candidates are using advertising to talk about their qualifications while avoiding attack ads and smear campaigns, and no outside spenders have jumped into the mix. Compared with what we’ve seen in judicial elections in other states so far this year and even in West Virginia’s own history, this is a significant improvement.” Read more
In both Wisconsin and West Virginia, news media relied on data compiled by Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice to keep readers up to date about the latest spending in state judicial elections.
When The Wisconsin Gazette reported on “The high cost of a high court seat in Wisconsin,” it attributed a total spending sum of at least $4.3 million in the Wisconsin Supreme Court election to an analysis by JAS and its partner organization.
Following the election, in which Justice Rebecca Bradley defeated Court of Appeals Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg, JAS Executive Director Susan Liss said, “So far 2016 is off to a very rough start, as we’ve seen outside groups spend heavily and succeed in defeating two Supreme Court candidates in Arkansas, with the same thing happening in Wisconsin just weeks later. This doesn’t bode well for the judicial elections ahead this year.” Read more
Justice at Stake Board Chair Mark Harrison, a Phoenix attorney, took a strong stance against legislation to expand the Arizona Supreme Court and cautioned against a political “quid pro quo” in an interview with The Kingman Daily Miner.
Last week, Harrison said, “Arizonans have repeatedly stood against partisan political tampering with our courts, so we’re disappointed to see this fresh attempt by legislators bent on politically-motivated court packing in the state” (see Gavel Grab). The Daily Miner has since reported that the Arizona Judicial Council, the court system’s policymaking arm, cast a split vote to support the expansion if it meant other critical funding needs of the courts would be met.
“The Legislature has to make sure the court has adequate funding without any political quid pro quo,” Harrison told the newspaper. “This is inappropriate.” If it were Democrats and not Republicans pushing for expansion of the court from five to seven members in this situation he would similarly oppose it, Harrison said. Read more
Wrapping up this week’s Wisconsin Supreme Court election, the Associated Press relied on an analysis by Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice to report that candidates and outside groups spent at least $4.3 million in the race.
Incumbent Justice Rebecca Bradley, who earlier was appointed by Gov. Scott Walker to fill a vacancy on the court, won election over Court of Appeals Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg for a full term on the court. You can read details about the spending breakdown from Gavel Grab.
A blog of The American Prospect, meanwhile, reported that “dark money groups poured more than $2 million into the race.” It continued, “The dark money-fueled ad war gave the race an ugly undertone. The lion’s share of outside spending came from the Wisconsin Alliance for Reform, a conservative group with ties to Walker and the Koch brothers that has been at the center of many controversial state political battles in recent years.” Read more
Total documented spending in the Wisconsin Supreme Court election has climbed to $4,369,787, with outside groups dominating TV ad spending, Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice said on Wednesday.
The winner was Justice Rebecca Bradley (see Gavel Grab). Her campaign benefitted from an estimated $1,851,710 on television ads by the Wisconsin Alliance for Reform, and $114,049 in other advertising by the Republican State Leadership Committee. An outside group supporting Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg, the Greater Wisconsin Committee, spent $381,360 on television ads and $107,323 on other advertising.
“Once again, we’ve seen a state Supreme Court race in which outside spenders pouring cash into TV ad campaigns have possibly made a significant difference in the outcome,” said JAS Executive Director Susan Liss. “So far 2016 is off to a very rough start, as we’ve seen outside groups spend heavily and succeed in defeating two Supreme Court candidates in Arkansas, with the same thing happening in Wisconsin just weeks later. This doesn’t bode well for the judicial elections ahead this year.” Read more
After a contentious contest, appointed incumbent Justice Rebecca Bradley defeated Court of Appeals Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg on Tuesday in the Wisconsin Supreme Court election.
“A surge of Republicans who turned out to vote in the GOP presidential primary contest helped carry [Bradley] over the top,” The Associated Press reported. It noted that Bradley triumphed despite a wave of adverse publicity “after college articles she wrote 20 years ago bashing gays, AIDS victims and feminists surfaced.” Bradley apologized and said her opinions had changed since then.
The AP quoted data from Justice at Stake in reporting that Wisconsin Alliance for Reform, a conservative group, spent some $1.54 million in an ad blitz against Kloppenburg while The Greater Wisconsin Committee, a liberal-leaning organization, spent at least $345,000 on advertising in support of Kloppenburg. Read more
For the second time in only several days, a major national news outlet has cast a spotlight on partisan political efforts in both state elections and in state capitals to capture control of fair and impartial courts.
“Control of state courts becomes a top political battleground,” reported The Associated Press. As did The New York Times only days earlier (see Gavel Grab), the AP’s multi-state account cited Justice at Stake for its tracking of judicial election spending. The AP published its article, published in newspapers across America, on the eve of a contentious Wisconsin Supreme Court election and with an eye on political attacks on the courts in state capitals in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri, and on court expansion efforts in Georgia and Arizona.
“State courts are the final word on a host of state law issues that have high stakes for businesses’ bottom lines, legislatures’ agendas and the rights of individuals,” said Alicia Bannon with the Brennan Center Read more
Voters will choose on Tuesday between appointed, incumbent Justice Rebecca Bradley and Court of Appeals Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg for a full term on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Because the state’s presidential primary races also will be decided, voter turnout in the judicial election may be higher than usual.
An Associated Press article said the race between Bradley, appointed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker, and Kloppenburg, widely seen as more liberal in her judicial philosophy, “has had a highly partisan tone in keeping with the court’s increased polarization in recent years.” And that is despite the official nonpartisan process of the election, the AP said.
Its article also cited TV ad tracking data from Justice at Stake: “In this race, the Greater Wisconsin Committee has spent about $265,000 so far on pro-Kloppenburg ads and the Wisconsin Alliance for Reform has spent about $1.2 million on TV ads to help Bradley, according to an analysis of Federal Communications Commission records by campaign watchdog group Justice at Stake.”