WASHINGTON, D.C., March 15, 2010—The following statement was issued today by Justice at Stake executive director Bert Brandenburg, regarding a vote Saturday night to enact public financing for West Virginia 2012 Supreme Court elections:
In 2004, West Virginia became a national symbol of the dangers of special-interest spending on court elections. This weekend, the state moved to shed that unhappy legacy, becoming a national leader in preserving public trust in the courts.
A recent poll showed West Virginia voters support public financing, because they don’t want their judges dialing for dollars from parties who appear before them. This weekend, their leaders delivered. Gov. Joe Manchin, who established a citizens commission to propose reforms and has endorsed public financing, and Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Jeffrey Kessler, an ardent supporter of court reforms, worked to ensure that courts stay accountable to the law instead of political pressure.
With Saturday’s final vote in the House, and with Gov. Manchin’s signature, West Virginia will become the fourth state nationally to publicly finance Supreme Court elections. Public financing will help restore public confidence in West Virginia’s Supreme Court, because judges no longer must raise money from parties that appear before them in court.
Separately, the legislature approved a nonpartisan nominating advisory commission that will recommend judicial nominees to the governor whenever mid-term vacancies occur.
This bill will help governors choose qualified nominees who have received a nonpartisan vetting, instead of filling judgeships with little or no community input. The panel is used only for mid-term vacancies, which already are filled by the governor. West Virginia will be the 14th state in which at least some mid-term vacancies for elected judges are filled using judicial nominating commissions. The other states are: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New York, Oklahoma,North Dakota, South Dakota and Tennessee.
To see other Justice at Stake reporting on the recent West Virginia legislation, see Justice at Stake’s West Virginia news page. To see the poll, commissioned by Justice at Stake and the Committee for Economic Development, click here.
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The Justice at Stake Campaign is a nonpartisan, nonprofit campaign working to keep America’s courts fair and impartial. Justice at Stake and its 50-plus state and national partners educate the public, and work for reforms to keep politics and special interests out of the courtroom—so judges can protect our Constitution, our rights and the Rule of law. For more about Justice at Stake, go to www.justiceatstake.org, or www.gavelgrab.org.