Pariente, Jefferson: ‘Alarmed’ by Citizens United Fallout

Jefferson_Justice_Wallace_2008_pariente0807The legacy of Citizens United for elected state courts is damaging, former Texas Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson and Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente write in a Dallas Morning News op-ed.

“Although we were appointed to our states’ high courts by governors of opposing parties, we share a bipartisan concern: On the fifth anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission decision, we are alarmed about the surge in interest group spending to influence state judicial elections. This has helped fuel a perception that justice is for sale, which undermines the public’s trust in impartial courts,” they assert.

Justice Jefferson was appointed initially by a Republican governor and Justice Pariente by a Democratic governor. Each has also run for the bench in elections. Their op-ed discusses specific examples of interest group spending to sway judicial elections and overall trends, and it concludes:

“If we remind ourselves that justice must be impartial to be fair, the remedy is clear. Appoint judges based on merit; let them work without fear of reprisal for rulings that comport with the law; and reject attempts to make the judicial branch succumb to partisan interests. Unless we act now, the harm to America’s courts may prove irreparable.”

The op-ed headline says, “The ‘Citizens United’ anniversary is a regrettable date for state courts.”

In other coverage and commentary, Ian Vandewalker,  counsel for the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, has an MSNBC commentary entitled, “The consequences of Citizens United.” At USA Today, Ilya Shapiro of the Cato Institute writes, “‘Citizens United’ misunderstood.” Trevor Potter, a former Federal Election Commission chairman, writes in the Washington Post, “Here’s what I learned when I helped Stephen Colbert set up his Super PAC.”