Secret Money in the Mountain State

The West Virginia Associated Press is reporting that a special interest group “wants to run television and radio ads targeting West Virginia’s upcoming Supreme Court elections, but doesn’t want to disclose how much it spends or who is footing the bill.” That might sound like old news, given that an energy executive spent about $3.5 million of his own money in the state’s now-notorious 2004 Supreme Court campaign. West Virginia voters were treated to thousands of television ads attacking a judge for being soft on crime. Only after the votes were counted did they find out who paid for all that advertising—and that the sponsor had millions of dollars at stake in cases pending before the West Virginia Supreme Court, but no real interest in criminal justice.

After that race, the West Virginia legislature passed an electioneering communications law, requiring any group that runs advertising for or against candidates for state office disclose who is paying (if they refer to a clearly identified candidate and appear within a certain number of days of an election). Apparently the Center for Individual Freedom, the group bringing a lawsuit against this fair-play rule, wants to support or oppose at least one candidate for the Court, but they don’t want to reveal who is writing their checks. They’ve already started filming the ads, and if not for such pesky disclosure laws and “the injury they threaten, the Center would be proceeding with its ads right now.”

As injuries go, this doesn’t sound like ER. Just to be clear, here: no one is being censored, no one’s right to speak freely is being curtailed, no TV ads are being yanked off the air. The law is simple: say what you will, just tell the voters who’s doing the paying. Unless you spend the day at the beach without tanning lotion, sunlight doesn’t hurt.

ABA's Statement on the New Developments in the Pakistan Judiciary

In a remarkable first act as Pakistan’s newly chosen Prime Minister, Yousaf Raza Gillani issued an edict freeing all the judges who has been detained during a state of emergency declared by former Prime Minister Pervez Musharraf in 2007. A pledge was also made by the new governing coalition to reinstate those Supreme and High Court judges that Mr. Musharraf previously dismissed. ABA President William H. Neukom issued a statement praising the action and affirming principles important to the rule of law, “A judiciary that can apply the law without intimidation and outside interference is a central pillar to any just society.”

L.A. County Ballot To Include 10 Open Trial Court Seats

Writing on the Los Angeles Times’ Opinion L.A. blog, Robert Greene highlights how the issues of money and judicial campaigns are related in California.  The interesting twist to his piece: it focuses on trial court elections in and around L.A. county, not on Supreme Court races.  Greene notes that there are ten open Superior Court seats this fall in Los Angeles, and surmises that many of the folks running for those vacancies are actively raising money from those likely to later appear in their court…should they win.