Seaton: SCOTUS Case Highlights ‘Toxic’ Judicial Elections

Seaton
Seaton

In a commentary for USNews and World Report, JAS’s Liz Seaton notes that a case before the U.S. Supreme Court “shines a spotlight on the problem with judicial elections, and the stakes are life or death.” The case is Williams v. Pennsylvania, in which attorneys for Terrance Williams argue he was “denied his right to a fair day in court by an appeals court judge who bragged while stumping for election about his record as Philadelphia’s top prosecutor.”

“At a moment in our nation’s history when fixing our criminal justice system has rightly attracted bipartisan engagement,” Seaton writes, “it is more important than ever that lawmakers consider the need to address the toxic influence of electing judges, a process that still exists in 39 states.” Justice at Stake also joined an amicus brief in the case, citing evidence that judges’ decision-making can be impacted by election pressures. (See Gavel Grab.)

The case is also being watched by the Associated Press, which emphasizes the prosecutorial role played by Castille.  “A Pennsylvania death row inmate has a simple challenge for the U.S. Supreme Court: The same person shouldn’t be both his prosecutor and his judge,” AP reports. The case will be heard by only eight justices, following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.  Later this week, the AP reports, the Court will hear a case on another hot-button issue, a Texas law restricting abortion clinics.