On electing judges | Arkansas Blog

Sunday, February 15, 2009

On electing judges

Posted By on Sun, Feb 15, 2009 at 6:28 AM

In West Virginia, a coal mining company spent $3 million to help elect a Supreme Court judge who then cast a swing vote in overturning a $50 million verdict against the company.

Aromatic. In a big way. But it happens in small ways all the time in the states, like Arkansas, where judges run for election. In these races, the judges depend almost entirely on contributions from lawyers to pay the expenses.

The diffusion of support generally present in Arkansas certainly lessens the potential for cases such as occurred in West Virginia, but I could name a couple where concentrated support was present in some important appellate races. A key difference in West Virginia was that, as in Arkansas, direct financial support to a candidate is limited. But the coal company spent the millions on advertising trashing the opponent of the man they wanted  elected. Such spending is unlimited, if it's not "direct advocacy." Such spending has occurred on a limited basis in Arkansas -- some newspaper ads of this sort appeared in one race for Pulaski circuit judge this year.

The NY Times reports today on the U.S. Supreme Court case that argues the West Virginia swing judge should have disqualified. The outcome could have an impact in all states that elect judges.

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