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.”
Flanigan mentions high spending the 2004 West Virginia Supreme Court election and its role in Caperton v. Massey, a landmark 2009 U.S. Supreme Court ruling about runaway spending in judicial campaigns. She recaps the state’s move to adopt public financing of judicial elections and more recently, how this public financing is playing out — and has been challenged — in the 2016 high court election.