JAS: Citizens United Casts a Long Shadow Over State Courts

JAS-LogoThe Supreme Court’s landmark campaign finance decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission continues to cast a shadow over elected state courts, Justice at Stake said on Wednesday, the fifth anniversary of the ruling. Here is the statement of JAS Executive Director Bert Brandenburg:

“Five years ago, the Supreme Court in Citizens United permitted unlimited outside spending on elections. Many Americans understand the impact of Citizens United on executive and legislative branch politics, but its impact on state judiciaries is enormous and often overlooked.

“Judges in 39 states face elections, and 85 percent of all state judges are elected. With state courts a forum for ruling on many of the most contentious issues in our nation, whether health care law, abortion rights, marriage equality or environmental degradation, elected judges are being subjected to torrents of campaign spending by partisan interests who want to influence these decisions that have a major impact on our lives.

“In 2011-12, the first full election cycle since Citizens United, an explosion of independent spending helped fuel the costliest election cycle for TV spending in judicial election history. In 2014, more state records were set.

“The time has come for every state that elects judges to take a serious look at reforms to insulate judges from harmful financial and political pressure. One of the best solutions available is a switch to merit selection of judges, currently in place for high courts in two dozen states.”