June 14, 2013

Money, Politics, and State Courts: A Threat to a Fair and Impartial Judiciary?

Rachel Paine Caufield

Professor, Drake University
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Joanna Shepherd

Associate Professor of Law, Emory University School of Law
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Jeremy Kidd

Assistant Professor of Law, Mercer University Walter F. George School of Law
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Justice Marilyn Kelly

Distinguished Jurist in Residence, Wayne State University Law School; former Chief Justice Michigan Supreme Court
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Justice David Wiggins

Iowa Supreme Court
Begin: 23:20

Important new empirical research sponsored by ACS establishes a correlation between political contributions to state court judges and judicial decisions favoring business interests. The 2012 election cycle shows that corporate contributions to judicial candidates continue to grow, and partisanship in state court elections is accelerating. A panel of expert academics and judges examined the scope of this problem and propose solutions. They addressed the evidence marshaled in the ACS report, Justice at Risk: An Empirical Examination of Whether Campaign Contributions Influence State Court Decision-Making, that there is a significant statistical correlation between campaign contributions from business interests and pro-business judicial decisions. The panel also addressed the following questions: Do increasingly expensive and partisan elections threaten the fairness and impartiality of the judiciary? Are certain methods of judicial selection better suited to address these problems than others? How can citizens take action to defend the fairness and impartiality of the judiciary?