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Contact Us Home July 22, 2018
"With business and interest groups pouring more and more money into state judicial elections ... the public can't be faulted for concluding that donors are getting what they pay for, namely favorable treatment from judges who are supposed to be impartial."
Tony Mauro, USA Today opinion column

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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