Oct 23 2012

Purchasing Justice: A Threat to Impartiality

Published by at 11:26 am under Judicial Elections

A recent blog compared NFL referees with courtroom judges.  Both sides want the decider to be impartial and skilled.  However, when judges are required to actively fundraise in order to successfully campaign for a

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seat on the bench and special interest groups, lawyers and litigants who may later appear before the judge donate large sums of money,

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how impartial are the judges?

This problem has ballooned within the last decade.  In 1990, state Supreme Court candidates raised approximately $3 million.  However, by 2000, some high court candidates raised more than $45 million.  Further, some of these contributors are corporate special interests, expecting some sort of benefit for their contribution. A Center for American Progress study reported, “In courtrooms across Pokies the emma watson pokies country, big corporations and other special interests are tilting the playing field in their favor.”

Although judges are supposed to be impartial, there are political movements across the country to oust judges that decide against political partisans.   For example, a Pennsylvania Tea Party faction set out to defeat a few state Supreme Court justices who refused to uphold to voter ID law.  In Iowa, one party, Iowans for Freedom is leading the call to remove Judge David Wiggins.  He was involved in a unanimous ruling legalizing same-sex marriage.  An opposing party, Justice Not Politics has emerged to protect the court system, merit selection and retention.  They explain, “If politics and campaign money are allowed into the courts, justice will be for sale.”

 

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One response so far

One Response to “Purchasing Justice: A Threat to Impartiality”

  1. Jack Navinon 25 Oct 2012 at 3:43 pm

    What “merits” are important and who decides? Education, experience, inteligence, a proven record? All are good stuff. Unfortunately, none of these things assures us that a candidate for a seat on the bench will be honest and fair. Plenty of judges with these qualities have lost their jobs due to their misconduct.

    Perhaps private citizen groups comprised of non-lawyers could serve to review the actions of judges. Congress has the responsibility, but they rarely do anything. Folks, improper influence, conflicts of interest, abound, right now, right here in Pennsylvania. They are easy to spot. They are all over the place. You don’t have to be a genius. In fact, the Canons refer to the average citizen who must be convinced of the courts’ integrity.

    Not only is money a corrupting influence in the election process, its power remains a constant threat. Ask the Luzerne Criminals.

    By not holding judges accountable the system has devolved into a cesspool of misconduct, doing favors, forbidding or restricting discovery to squelch one side, etc. It is plain as day. The tragedy is that those who know the system inside and out, are silent. How many legal professionals, people of distinction and merit, were aware of the high incarceration rate in Luzerne, the absence of colloquy, etc., and did zero? Thank goodness for the one gutsy attorney, Sam Stretton, for blowing the whistle!

    Yes. Judges need to make tough decisions, even unpopular ones, without fear of losing their jobs. However, judges do need to fear making compromised decisions that are unjust, paid-for, influenced by their friends and colleagues, etc. Judges must be constrained by the Law and the Canons of their profession.

    It makes no sense, in fact it is silly, to endow a group of people with such vast power, virtually unchecked, and expect them to self-govern properly.

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