Saturday, November 05, 2011

Buying and selling judges

The following editorial was published by the Washington Post on November 5, 2011.

FOR THOSE who believe that judges should be bought, sold and marketed like any other product, the 2009-10 election cycle brought welcome developments. Special-interest groups from both the left and right inundated judicial campaigns across the country with record levels of cash. These groups — dominated by lawyers, lobbyists, businesses and political parties — independently spent a combined $11.5 million, or nearly one-third of the $38 million spent on these campaigns.

The money is question is a pittance compared to the sums spent by groups and candidates for political office, but its impact is profound. Campaigns become demonstrably nastier as the level of outside group involvement increases. Outside groups, for example, were responsible for funding three out of every four attack ads aired during the 2009-10 judicial election campaign season.

These are but a few of the disturbing findings in a recent report by Justice at Stake Campaign, the Brennan Center for Justice and the National Institute on Money in State Politics — a trio of public-interest groups that follow judicial elections closely. The revelations once more affirm the need to discard the election of judges.

Total spending in judicial campaigns dipped during 2009-10, typical for for off-year elections. But the incursion and influence of special interests grew. Just 10 outside groups accounted for nearly 40 percent of the spending nationwide. Lawyers and lobbyists provided the most direct contributions to candidates, funneling $8.5 million to judicial campaigns. They were followed by business groups and political parties, with $6.2 million and $3.5 million, respectively.

Unopposed retention elections — in which voters give a thumbs up or thumbs down to sitting judges — no longer insulate jurists from the most pernicious political elements. National spending on these elections between 2000 and 2009 amounted to just over $2 million, but they attracted nearly $5 million just during the 2009-10 cycle. National interest groups poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into the successful campaign to unseat three Iowa Supreme Court justices who joined a decision recognizing same-sex marriage. The message was clear: Render decisions that rile the public and risk the loss of your seat.

This is precisely the problem with judicial elections. Judges should not have to worry about pleasing political constituencies — whether they are business groups, unions or those who support a particular definition of marriage. Judges in many circumstances are meant to be a check against these forces and the unconstitutional excesses of the elected bodies. The notion of impartial justice for all is obliterated when judges are forced to think like politicians and to curry favor with monied interests just to keep their jobs.


Anonymous said...

I couldnt think you are more right..

Anonymous said...

Someone should find out how much Robert O'Neill paid for Judge Whittemore. I had a better comment on this ready to hit "submit" but the computer froze ..

This is the same judge who shot down Jeff DelFuoco against O'Neill after O'Neill threatened him with bodily harm. One assumes O'Neill knows many someones who can commit said bodily harm due to his unsavory, yet apparently legal connections and ownership of what is widely known as the premier Tampa Irish Republican Army Bar: Three Green Fields.

Anonymous said...

We won't need judges pretty soon.. not to detract from this important subject of highest concern with YET MORE Robert O'Neill HIJINKS but a judge threw corrupt Norman off the ballot and another reinstated him and now O'Neill says: "nothing to see here"... Norman has been so corrupt for soooo long.
O'Neill and his selective commenting is hilarious. I also enjoyed when he got together with holder and Bondi (florida AG) to wax poetic about "sex offenders" then the next week Paterno broke and our IRA mayor Bobby Buckhorn revealed his long term family connection to Paterno but IMMEDIATELY turned his back on his decades-old friend. Most won't get the implication there until Robert O'Neill's business partner's wife and her friend, IAD detective bautiste's sister threaten and THEN TRY to plant child porn on your laptop.

This new trend where a person can pay a retired judge to hear a case is also scary. Gee. I wonder who the judge would decide for?

Anonymous said...

I read the most informative letter pertaining to Robert O'Neill's lies and deceitful trial maneuvers here at the website of Mr. Scanlan.,_2011_.pdf

Being a long-term Tampa resident I can't even begin to thank Mr. Scanlan for waking these folks up to the fact that people can SEE what is going on here despite Tampa's long-held belief that it exists under a dirty bubble cover where no thing such as war or ethics exist. We write about neither. Calling out the St Pete Times as a newspaper is NO MORE. If they can't get their news from Janet Zink (now at the airport) or their "first responder" scanners, it's NOT news. As far as the SPT readership knows there is still an ongoing war of aggression in Iraq.
But, I digress.
Thank you, Mr. Scanlan.