Saturday, August 09, 2014

Koch Brothers' Effort to Oust Tennessee Supreme Court Justices Fails

Personally, I have a problem with elected judges and Supreme Court justices.    When I first was practicing law in Alabama there was one local judge who while a good campaigner proved to be not only a terrible judge but perhaps insane to boot.  Things finally got so bad that the Alabama Supreme Court had to step in and have the judge removed.  Sadly, similar things can happen with appointed judges - one Norfolk District Court judge likewise proved insane (at least in my opinion) and was not reappointed.  My real problem with elected judges comes down to the problem of money - huge amounts of money that can be used to defeat competent judges  and set the stage for their replacement by those who will prostitute themselves to religious  or to political contributors.  In Tennessee, luckily voters saw this danger and rejected the efforts of the Koch brothers to remove three justices the evil brothers perceived to be insufficiently craven to their political agenda of creating a new Gilded Age.  Here are highlights from the New York Times:

Participants in Tennessee’s judicial elections on Thursday rejected a malodorous effort to oust three capable sitting state Supreme Court justices: Chief Justice Gary Wade and Justices Cornelia Clark and Sharon Lee.

Conservative Republican groups, including the Republican State Leadership Committee and Americans for Prosperity — part of Charles and David Koch’s big-dollar political operation — underwrote a campaign against the judges. For weeks before Thursday’s election, they bombarded Tennessee with ads depicting them as “soft on crime,” hostile to business interests and supporters of “the Obama agenda” and “Obamacare.” But this was all nonsense: In fact the judges never ruled on a case involving the health care law.

Tennessee voters apparently saw through the lies, a victory not only for the three judges but for elected judges everywhere. The outcome of the election is a sign that judges can sign on to controversial decisions without losing their jobs — despite attack ads.

The downside of the judges’ success is that, to achieve it, they raised more than $1 million, much of it from lawyers who may appear before them. The judges’ next challenge is to be diligent about avoiding the appearance and reality of improper conflicts-of-interest by recusing themselves from cases involving significant financial backers.

“People can smell court tampering and tend to get their backs up,” says Bert Brandenburg of Justice at State, a group that advocates for the preservation of fair and impartial courts. But he warned that if judges take away from it the need to go out and raise lots more money, courts and ultimately justice will lose.

1 comment:

EdA said...

Frustratingly rarely brought up (unless I'm grossly wrong in my reading), in their dissents in Caperton v. Massey, a predecessor to Citizens United and McKutcheon, the four corrupt injustices on the Supreme Court claimed that they saw no reason for the chief justice of a state supreme court to recuse himself from hearing the appeal of a $50 million judgement just because the CEO of the defendant laundered a $3 million bribe through the guy's campaign committee.