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"The influence of big money in judicial elections has exploded in this decade, and ... it has totally eroded public confidence."
Ed Rendell, governor of Pennsylvania
 

Commentaries

 

 

 

(click on logos to read the articles)


"As interest-group spending rises, public confidence in the judiciary declines."

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor
Wall Street Journal Op-ed,  Nov, 15, 2007

"Political pressure is a big problem in a number of our state courts. More than 89% of state judges go through some form of election process. Many of these elections recently have become full-fledged political battles, fueled by growing sums of money spent by candidates and special-interest groups to attack, defend and counterattack."

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor
Parade Magazine, Feb. 24, 2008

 

“Certain American values transcend partisan divisions. One is that money should not influence the courts. But with record sums pouring into judicial elections, the ideal of due process is giving way to a perception of pay-to-play justice.”

James Sample of the Brennan Center for Justice
Wall Street Journal column, March 22, 2008

 

 

“Judicial neutrality and the appearance of neutrality are basic elements of due process. Situations like the Massey Energy case create an unmistakable impression that justice is for sale.”

New York Times editorial, Sept. 7, 2008

 

It's a shame that the Mountain State is on display nationally as a place where justice is suspect.”

Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette, Jan. 9, 2009

 

"Failing that, let's decree that if states want court campaigns, they must provide equal public financing for the candidates. And any of those independent "issue ads" must say who is paying for them -- not just an innocuous committee title, but the name on the wallet."

Detroit Free Press Editorial, Feb. 22, 2009

 

 

 

"Judicial elections used to be mostly genteel affairs, with lawyers winning election based on local reputation and maybe an ad or two in the hometown newspaper. Now, these races have been infected with high-priced campaigning and misleading television commercials and questionnaires. The trend feeds the cynical belief that courts — just like legislatures, governors and mayors — can be lobbied and manipulated through well-placed donations. This has begun to take a toll on public faith in the court system."

Tony Mauro
Supreme Court Correspondent for The Legal Times
USA Today Opinion Blog, Feb. 26, 2009

 

 

"The Supreme Court has warned against a 'probability of unfairness', but its most definitive ruling only bars judges from cases in which they have a financial stake. Forty-seven states have adopted the American Bar Association’s tougher rule for recusal when “impartiality might reasonably be questioned”. But most judges are responsible for recusing themselves. Mr Benjamin thought it unnecessary."

The Economist, Feb. 26, 2009

 

 

"This case offers the nation’s top court the opportunity to make clear that judges who receive outsize campaign contributions have a duty to recuse themselves. Although not all contributions implicate due process, Mr. Blankenship’s multimillion-dollar quest to tilt the scales of justice surely does. It is vitally important for the Supreme Court to say so."

New York Times editorial, March 2, 2009

 

 

"The rise of judicial campaigning purports to solve a problem that didn’t exist. It has dragged judges down into the mire of politics and made them susceptible to precisely the sort of ridicule and scorn that Judge Benjamin faces today. It has made judges more, not less, arrogant and less, not more, accountable. Most importantly, it has made honest litigants like Caperton rightfully skeptical of the judiciary’s ability to be fair and neutral to their causes and cases. In short, it’s been a colossal disaster, devoid of virtually any redeeming qualities. That’s why the Supreme Court must speak decisively here, before things get even worse.

Andrew Cohen
CBS News, March 3, 2009

 

 

"Recusal rules present a serious issue. Yet a victory for Mr. Caperton would establish the proposition that political speech -- not contributions to a politician's campaign, but the independent speech of citizens -- 'corrupts' democracy. For those who think that free speech and a healthy democracy go hand in hand, the stakes could hardly be higher."

Bradley A. Smith and Jeff Patch, Center for Competitive Politics
Wall Street Journal Op-Ed, March 3, 2009

 

 

"Any judge who is blind to such an obvious conflict of interest cannot be trusted. Huge donations taint any decision he might make in favor of a contributor. In virtually all cases, however, judges have the last word on whether they will step aside. Regardless of how the Supreme Court rules, a better system is needed."

Editorial
USA Today, March 3, 2009

 

 

"Requiring recusal in this case would tell those wanting to speak out on judicial candidates to remain silent, lest their favored candidate be disqualified from hearing a case involving them."

Sean Purnell, USA Today Counterpoint, March 3, 2009

 

 

"States should consider barring judges from considering cases involving litigants or lawyers who were directly or indirectly responsible for campaign contributions beyond a certain limit."

Washington Post Editorial, March 3, 2009

 

"Judges who participate in decisions benefiting their own campaign donors promote the perception that justice is a commodity for sale to the highest bidder. The need to protect litigants from such egregious influence peddling is obvious. Federal justices can help by establishing a clear constitutional baseline for judicial impartiality."

Detroit Free Press, Editorial, March 5, 2009

 

"Spending on statewide judicial races underscores the messy business involving the river of money that flows through judicial elections. Checks often are written by lawyers who then appear before judges - an apparent conflict that the majority of voters have told pollsters they find troubling."

Philadelphia Inquirer, Editorial, March 5, 2009

 

"Our view is that there should be written standards, and justices should have to state their reasons for recusing themselves from a case. But a vague charge of an 'appearance of impropriety' shouldn't knock justices off the bench."

Detroit News Editorial, March 6, 2009

 

"Meanwhile, the Benjamin case and others like it come up short by another, less formal legal standard: the common sense test. That might be hard to define, but most of us know it when we see it."

Columbus Ledger-Enquirer Editorial, March 6, 2009

 

"This system makes no sense. State supreme courts should revise their ethics rules to forbid lawyers - and their colleagues in law firms - from practicing before a judge to whom they have contributed financially for, say, one year from the date of the contribution. Such a rule would, as a practical matter, cause campaign contributions in judicial elections to dry up - which is precisely the point."

Peter Scheer, San Fransico Chronicle Op-Ed, March 11, 2009
Executive Director
California First Amendment Coalition

 

"If the justices condone this travesty, they will be letting the well-heeled place their ingots of gold on justice's scale."

The Boston Globe, Editorial, March 25, 2009

 

 

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