White Noise: The Unrealized Effects of Republican Party of Minnesota V. White on Judicial Elections*

By Bonneau, Chris W.; Hall, Melinda Gann et al. | Justice System Journal, September 1, 2011 | Go to article overview

White Noise: The Unrealized Effects of Republican Party of Minnesota V. White on Judicial Elections*


Bonneau, Chris W., Hall, Melinda Gann, Streb, Matthew J., Justice System Journal


Republican Party of Minnesota v. White (2002) has caused the nation's most powerful legal-advocacy organizations to question the wisdom of electing judges without regulations to help keep judicial candidates above the political fray. Conventional wisdom states that White has heightened the politicization of judicial elections by facilitating expensive, below-the-belt exchanges that sharply attenuate the incumbency advantage and threaten the legitimacy of state courts. Our primary assumption is that if White has had the presumed effects, we should see measurable changes in key judicial election characteristics: an increased willingness of challengers to enter the electoral arena, decreased electoral support for incumbents, elevated costs of campaigns, and declines in voter participation. Overall, we find no statistically discernable changes in state supreme court or state intermediate appellate court elections on these dimensions, which should help allay the fears of those concerned about judicial elections while encouraging additional empirical research on the judicial selection controversy.

Few issues on the American political agenda are more divisive or controversial than the practice of electing judges. While a number of the nation's most influential legal-advocacy organizations historically have expressed strong opposition to selecting judges in partisan elections and actively have lobbied to replace them with nonpartisan elections or the Missouri Plan, this opposition recently has intensified into outright condemnation of contestable elections.

In particular, the American Bar Association (ABA), the nation's largest and most powerful interest group actively seeking to alter the process by which state court judges are selected and retained, is convinced that electoral politics has devastating consequences for judges and courts. As a result, the ABA formally advocates replacing all forms of judicial elections with gubernatorial appointment schemes. Additionally, the ABA opposes indirect citizen representation in the appointment process in the form of legislative confirmation because it considers the confirmation process to be dominated by politics, which in their view threatens judicial legitimacy (ABA Commission on the 21st Century Judiciary, 2003:174).

While the ABA is working to end the practice of electing judges altogether, others are lobbying to replace contestable elections with a revised version of the Missouri Plan.1 Although acceptance of the Missouri Plan has stalled at the statewide level since 1994,2 prominent legal figures like retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who has formed the Judicial Selection Initiative, are seeking to revive it.3

This latest push against judicial elections has been inspired by recent trends in the conduct of campaigns, especially the skyrocketing costs of supreme court elections and the national visibility achieved by a number of expensive, bare-knuckled contests for the state high court bench. Exacerbating these concerns is the United States Supreme Court's landmark decision Republican Party of Minnesota v. White (2002). Since June 2002 when the Supreme Court decided White, this ruling has received a "blizzard of commentaries on the likelihood of dire consequences flowing from the politicization of state courts" (Gibson, 2008:60) and has contributed mightily to the overriding concern that judicial elections will become nasty political smackdowns that destroy the foundations of state court legitimacy. As the Justice at Stake Campaign asserts:

. . . [I]ts effects could be momentous: by loosening standards for campaign speech, the White decision lit a time bomb that could drive more big money into campaigns, give special interests new powers to pressure judicial candidates, and tempt judicial candidates to pander to special interests or face their wrath. In other words, the White decision will accelerate the growing threat to our courts, and to the 86% of America's state judges who must stand for election (Goldberg and Sanchez, 2003:23). …

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.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

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

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

White Noise: The Unrealized Effects of Republican Party of Minnesota V. White on Judicial Elections*
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
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?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

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

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

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.