A recent American Constitution Society symposium explored the vitally important topic of state court judicial selection. Entitled (“Justice at Risk: Research Opportunities and Policy Alternatives Regarding State Judicial Selection” the event empirical evidence showing that how a state selects its judges can impact judicial decision making. The symposium (which was co-sponsored by the American Judicature Society and Vanderbilt Law School) built upon the foundation set by Justice at Risk, a study commissioned by ACS that sounded the alarm over the big money takeover of state courts across the nation. Written by Professor Joanna Shepherd-Bailey of Emory University, who examined thousands state court cases and over 175,000 judicial campaign contributions, Justice at Risk shows that consciously or unconsciously, judges tend to rule in favor of their contributors. For example, a judge who receives half of his or her contributions from business groups would be expected to vote in favor of business interests almost two-thirds of the time.
Professor Shepherd-Bailey led the symposium’s opening panel which examined the findings of Justice at Risk and discussed its methodology. Two subsequent panels looked at the research opportunities presented by Professor Shepherd-Bailey’s research and a broader discussion at the policy implications of this empirical research. The latter panel featured the Honorable Martha Daughtrey of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and the Honorable N. Randy Smith of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.