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Contact Us Home January 20, 2018
"This independence of the judges is ... requisite to guard the Constitution and the rights of individuals."
Alexander Hamilton, Federalist Paper No. 78.
 

Campaign Spending and the Courts

 

 

Once quiet, low-budget affairs, state Supreme Court elections are now marked by runaway spending by special interest groups, which see judicial elections as an inexpensive investment to bend courts to their agendas.   

This change has caused deep concern among leading jurists, and among the general public, that campaign spending for judicial candidates could translate to favorable treatment in the courtroom. There is a growing perception that justice is “for sale.”

 

Spending Data

Spending on state Supreme Court elections more than doubled in the past decade, from $83.3 million in 1990-1999 to $206.9 million in 2000-2009, and deep-pocketed special interests play a dominant role in choosing state jurists, according to a report released by Justice at Stake, the Brennan Center for Justice and the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

The report found that a select group of “super spenders” was outgunning small donors. In the 29 costliest elections in 10 states, the top five spenders each averaged $473,000 per election to install judges of their choice, while all other contributors averaged only $850 apiece.

Poll Data: What the public, judges and business leaders think about judicial campaign spending

Notable Quotes: What leading legal authorities say about the danger to American courts

 

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