judicial elections

  • February 9, 2016

    by Jim Thompson

    In The New York Times, Ekow N. Yankah contrasts society’s sympathetic response to the current epidemic of heroin addiction plaguing white neighborhoods with the criminal treatment of crack addiction that crippled communities of color in the 1980s, noting “the heroin epidemic shows that how we respond to the crimes accompanying addiction depends on how much we care about the victims of crime and those in the grip of addiction.”

    At The Root, Premilla Nadasen blasts the blatant disregard for black children in many state welfare policies, citing a recent report that exposes Mississippi’s racially discriminatory distribution of child care subsidies.

    Saru M. Matambanadzo discusses the complicated history of legal personhood at Race and the Law Prof Blog, opining that legal personhood is merely a starting point for “relief and recognition,” but does not guarantee it.

    Lincoln Caplan at The New Yorker examines proposals to move away from retention elections and institute partisan elections of Kansas Supreme Court justices, concluding that such elections “often make judges indistinguishable from politicians, and judging indistinguishable from politics.”

  • November 9, 2015

    by Jim Thompson

    At Reuters, Lawrence Hurley reports that the Supreme Court has declined an appeal to determine whether or not police need to obtain search warrants before accessing cellphone location information maintained by wireless carriers.

    In The New York Times, Michael D. Shear writes about a growing group of voting rights activists called iVote who are working to make voter registration “automatic whenever someone gets a driver’s license.”

    At Moyers & Company, John Light discusses the troubling influence of dark money in Pennsylvania’s recent judicial elections and cites ACS’s “Skewed Justice” report to highlight the long-term impact such funds can have on criminal cases.

    Tom Jawetz and Sanam Malik at the Center for American Progress explain why attacks against birthright citizenship undermine the Fourteenth Amendment and contradict the core principles of our democracy. 

  • November 2, 2015

    by Jim Thompson

    In The New York Times, Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Robert Gebeloff expose efforts by a Wall Street-led coalition of credit card companies and retailers to block class action lawsuits in favor of private arbitration.

    In part two of The New York Times arbitration series, Silver-Greenberg and Gebeloff explain how forced arbitration buried in contracts that most individuals never read is creating an “alternate justice system” in America, quoting Myriam Gilles, a law professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, who says that “this amounts to the whole-scale privatization of the justice system.”

    Elsewhere in The New York Times, Larry D. Thompson urges the Supreme Court to meaningfully enforce the ban on racial discrimination in jury selection.

    Christie Thompson at The Marshall Project asks if current judicial elections in Pennsylvania provide the perfect storm necessary for reforming the manner in which the state’s judges are selected.

  • September 24, 2015

    by Jim Thompson

    Dan Levine and Kristina Cooke at Reuters discuss a recent study that found that justices who are elected reverse death penalty decisions at less than half the rate of their appointed counterparts. 

    In The Baltimore Sun, Colin Campbell reports that juvenile suspects in Maryland will no longer be shackled during court hearings.

    At the Center for American Progress, Ryan Erickson, Sarah Jane Glynn and Heidi Williamson consider seven ways in which “policymakers and advocates can help women bolster their families’ economic security.”

    Mark Joseph Stern at Slate writes about Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s recent attempt to undermine the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling during a speech at Rhodes College. 

    Tuesday, Ohio State Reps. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) and Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) introduced the Ohio Equal Pay Act. This legislation aims to address the enduring problem of unequal pay between men and women.

  • September 16, 2015
    Guest Post

    by Norman L. Reimer, Executive Director, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

    The power to prosecute is the power to destroy a person’s reputation.  It is the power to seize the hard-earned treasure of a life’s work, to strip a person of liberty, and even in some jurisdictions in this country, to kill a fellow human being.  Simply put, a criminal prosecution is the most awesome use of government power short of warfare.  For this reason, the founders of this nation constructed a network of fundamental constitutional rights to ensure that this enormous power is used fairly and with appropriate limitations and safeguards. The American system of government entrusts the enforcement of these rights to an independent judiciary. As Chief Justice John Roberts famously explained in his confirmation hearing: the role of a judge is like an umpire, “to call balls and strikes and not to pitch or bat.”  In other words, the role of the judge is to make the hard calls, applying constitutional principles, statutory provisions, and case precedent without fear or favor, and unencumbered by self-interest. But that imperative is under assault.

    As a criminal defense attorney for nearly 30 years, I represented hundreds of accused persons whose lives were profoundly affected by judicial decision-making, and nothing is more heartbreaking than to see a judge take the easy way out to avoid criticism in the criminal context. Nothing is more corrosive of public confidence in the criminal justice system than the perception that the game is rigged. That perception breeds resentment and contempt.  It denigrates the courts in the eyes of the public. It polarizes society—and turns a process that should promote healing into one that perpetuates mistrust and division.

    Skewed Justice: Citizens United, Television Advertising and State Supreme Court Justices’ Decisions in Criminal Cases confirms the corrosive effect of money on judicial behavior. It is an important contribution to the mounting data that proves that there is an inverse relationship between the influx of the outside judicial campaign money authorized by the Citizens United decision and due process in criminal cases. This report empirically demonstrates that the infusion of spending to influence judicial elections increases the likelihood that state supreme court justices will vote against the interests of criminal defendants and that the greater the number of television advertisements the greater the likelihood that those judges will vote against those interests.