Oct 21 2008
The Las Vegas Sun’s report on the Nevada Supreme Court elections discloses disturbing allegations about whether campaign contributions might have been offered in exchange for a promise to recuse from the donor’s cases. The candidate has alleged that a political consultant close to another lawyer — and long-time “enemy” of the candidate — approached the candidate with the promise of large campaign donations in exchange for the agreement to recuse in the “enemy’s” cases. The FBI was alerted, but as yet, no charges have been filed.
The news report bemoans the state of judicial elections in Nevada:
But even if no crime has been committed — and lawyers disagree on whether one was — the notion that such a conversation took place will confirm the worst cynicism about how campaigns and the judiciary work in our little backwater in the desert. That L.A. Times series [from 2006], headlined “A stacked judicial deck,” detailed how judges apparently were influenced by friendships and contributions — it was a manifesto for an appointive judicial selection process.
The public has grown increasingly concerned that campaign contributors get favored treatment in the courtroom. This story raises a new question — could contributors use their money not to curry favor but to get unfavorable judges out of the courtroom?
Conspiracy theories and ugly tactics are de rigueur for October in even-numbered years. But what makes this different is the unmasking (again) of a system in which lawyers spend lots of money trying to get a favorable majority on the high court, where justices can help determine where millions of dollars in settlements will go or how much money deep pockets will save.
Whether or not the allegations in this story are proven to be true, the damage to the court system and the judiciary has been done. This story reinforces the public perception that money matters in the courtroom, and it demonstrates once again why we need to get judges out of the fundraising business.Tags: campaign donations, fundraising, Las Vegas Sun, Nevada, other states, recuse