Buying the Judiciary. (Editorial)

Multinational Monitor, March 2003 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Buying the Judiciary. (Editorial)


Frustrated by state courts that insisted on respecting jury decisions and protecting victims' right to sue corporations that injure them, Big Business has figured out that it can simply buy replacement judges.

Most of the U.S. states -- 39 in total -- elect judges, either through direct, contested elections, or through "retention" elections, in which previously nominated judges appear before the voters in a thumbs-up-or-thumbs-down election.

These electoral races have traditionally been sleepy affairs, in which judges cite endorsements from various law associations and tout their professionalism.

In recent decades, there have been spikes of interest in some of these races, with corporations throwing money at judicial contests in California and Texas, among other states, to defeat pro-consumer judges and replace them with corporate-friendly arbiters.

But there has not been a nationwide drive to elect a corporate judiciary. Until now.

In 2000, the Chamber of Commerce and a host of business interests decided that they could buy state supreme court elections. That year, state supreme court candidates raised more than $45 million, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School, a 68 percent increase from 1998 and more than double the amount of 1994.

And that $45 million figure significantly understates the amount spent on supreme court races, because it does not include "issue advertisements" -- "independent expenditures" that do not say "elect" or "defeat" and thus are exempt from normal campaign finance rules.

Of course, not all of the money that poured into judicial races came from corporations and their allied lawyers. Trial lawyers and labor unions made major contributions to sympathetic candidates. But these forces could not match the expenditures from the corporate side.

In one state, Ohio, the Chamber's hyper-aggressive television advertisements and campaign backfired. One ad, showing Lady Justice peeking under a blindfold to look at campaign contributions from trial lawyers and unions, asked: Alice Resnick: "Is Justice for Sale?" Seeing through the hypocrisy of the ad from the Chamber -- which was infusing much more money into the judicial race than its adversaries -- Ohioans re-elected Resnick.

By 2002, the corporations had figured out how to be more strategic. First, they relied more on local business money, or at least downplayed the role of out-of-state contributions. Second, they enlisted new allies in their efforts, notably doctors in favor of limiting patient rights in medical malpractice cases. Third, they invested even more money in judicial races, and widened the number of states where they campaigned.

There was television advertising for judicial races in nine states in 2002, as compared to five states in 2000.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Buying the Judiciary. (Editorial)


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?