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League of Women Voters® of Ohio / Education Fund Judicial Selection How best to select Supreme Court Justices.

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Presentation on theme: "League of Women Voters® of Ohio / Education Fund Judicial Selection How best to select Supreme Court Justices."— Presentation transcript:

1 League of Women Voters® of Ohio / Education Fund Judicial Selection How best to select Supreme Court Justices

2 League of Women Voters® of Ohio / Education Fund Judges are Different Not elected to represent constituents. Not elected to enact a particular program. A judge’s role is to impartially decide cases based on facts and the law.

3 League of Women Voters® of Ohio / Education Fund Judges are Different Rules prohibit promises regarding how judge will rule on controversial issues. Such restrictions are being challenged. If lifted, judiciary likely to be more politicized.

4 League of Women Voters® of Ohio / Education Fund Huge sums of money have been spent on court races. 1980’s campaign for seat on Ohio Supreme Court - $100 thousand. Today - $2 million. Advocacy groups have spent millions more. Judicial Elections have been Politicized

5 League of Women Voters® of Ohio / Education Fund Judicial Elections have been Politicized (Millions)

6 League of Women Voters® of Ohio / Education Fund Source: The New Politics of Judicial Elections 2000–2009: Decade of Change Published August 2010 The Brennan Center and Justice at Stake

7 League of Women Voters® of Ohio / Education Fund Who are the super-spenders? On the left: Wealthy trial attorneys On the right: Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, Big corporations Super-Spenders

8 League of Women Voters® of Ohio / Education Fund Super-Spenders Top 5 spenders in 10 most costly elections averaged $473,000. Source: The New Politics of Judicial Elections 2000–2009: Decade of Change Published August 2010 The Brennan Center and Justice at Stake

9 League of Women Voters® of Ohio / Education Fund Greatest Expenditures $4.4 MM OH 2000 U.S. & Ohio Chamber $3 MM – W.Va Don Blankenship – Massey Coal $2.8 MM – IL IL. Dem. Party with plaintiffs’ lawyers $2.4 MM – AL AL. Dem. Party with plaintiffs’ lawyers

10 League of Women Voters® of Ohio / Education Fund Contributors expect results! Problematic when candidate is a judge. Judges expected to be impartial. Large contributions threaten appearance of impartiality. Massey v. Caperton What do Contributors Expect?

11 League of Women Voters® of Ohio / Education Fund 2006 N.Y. Times interview quoted Justice Pfeifer of the Ohio Supreme Court: “I never felt so much like a hooker down by the bus station…as I did in a judicial race. Everyone interested in contributing has very specific interests. They mean to be buying a vote.” “I never felt so much like a hooker down by the bus station…as I did in a judicial race. Everyone interested in contributing has very specific interests. They mean to be buying a vote.” What do Contributors Expect?

12 League of Women Voters® of Ohio / Education Fund Impact of Citizens United Citizens United v. FEC, Supreme Court, January, 2010: Corporations and unions may spend unlimited amounts of money to support or oppose candidates.  Impartiality of Judges who benefit from such contributions threatened in appearance if not fact.

13 League of Women Voters® of Ohio / Education Fund What do People Believe Seven out of ten people believe that judge’s decisions are affected by contributions. Nearly half of state judges agree.

14 League of Women Voters® of Ohio / Education Fund Harris Interactive Poll, June 2010 What do People Believe? YESNO “Campaign expenditures have a significant impact on courtroom decisions.” 71%23% “A judge should not hear cases involving a campaign supporter who spent $10,000 toward his or her election.” 81%8% “All campaign expenditures to elect judges’ should be publicly disclosed, so that voters can know who is seeking to elect each candidate.” 87% Source: The New Politics of Judicial Elections 2000–2009: Decade of Change Published August 2010 The Brennan Center and Justice at Stake

15 League of Women Voters® of Ohio / Education Fund What should we do? Educate voters about role of judiciary: Why information that is relevant to other kinds of political campaigns is not relevant to judges.

16 League of Women Voters® of Ohio / Education Fund What should we do? Educate voters about where to get information …and what information is important.

17 League of Women Voters® of Ohio / Education Fund Where to get Information? Candidate’s Forums – ask relevant questions: Judicial philosophy EffectivenessCharacterExperience

18 League of Women Voters® of Ohio / Education Fund Where to get Information? Judicial Voter Guide on Secretary of State’s website LWVO/EF Voter Info. Bulletin Judicial performance evaluations can be useful – but understand the possible bias of the entity making the evaluation.

19 League of Women Voters® of Ohio / Education Fund Relevant Criteria Judicial temperament for trial court judges Legal background for appellate court judges

20 League of Women Voters® of Ohio / Education Fund Judicial Scorecards can be Misleading Judge may be rated on one or two decisions of particular interest to “scoring” organization. May not take into account that judge is supposed to decide case based on facts and precedent – not personal political belief.

21 League of Women Voters® of Ohio / Education Fund We can make Judicial Selection less Political Change to… Other reforms that address problems of Money in Judicial Elections: Public Financing Stricter Recusal Rules Formal Evaluation of judges

22 League of Women Voters® of Ohio / Education Fund Other Methods of Selecting Judges Other countries do not elect judges. Federal judiciary is not elected. Many states do not elect their judges. Some use appointment system. Many use appointment/retention system.

23 League of Women Voters® of Ohio / Education Fund Since 1973 LWVO/EF has supported appointed judiciary constitutional amendment. Unsuccessful attempt to pass a ballot initiative in Currently LWVO/EF working with OSBA to educate Ohioans about the benefits of Appointment/Retention Election System. LWVO/EF Supports Appointment/Retention Election System

24 League of Women Voters® of Ohio / Education Fund Governor would appoint from list selected by commission. Commission would be diverse. Meetings of commission would be open. Who would do the appointing?

25 League of Women Voters® of Ohio / Education Fund Sitting justices performance to be evaluated by diverse appointed commission. Evaluations to be made public. Information would enable voters to make informed decision in retention election. Evaluation Process

26 League of Women Voters® of Ohio / Education Fund After period in office, justices subject to retention election. Voters to have benefit of public evaluation to determine whether they should be retained. If voters do not retain sitting justice, commission nominates replacement. Retention Election

27 League of Women Voters® of Ohio / Education Fund Other Measures supported by LWVO Public Financing Transparency & Reporting of Contributions Stricter recusal standards Bi-Partisan or nonpartisan commission Judicial Performance Evaluation

28 League of Women Voters® of Ohio / Education Fund Public Financing Reduces influence of large contributors. Focuses campaigns on candidates’ qualifications. May encourage broader pool of candidates. Has been successfully pursued in North Carolina.

29 League of Women Voters® of Ohio / Education Fund Transparency & Timely Reporting of Contributions Public has “right to know” who is contributing to a judge’s campaign. Same principles as applied to other elective offices. Following Citizens United decision, information becomes even more important.

30 League of Women Voters® of Ohio / Education Fund Stricter Recusal Standards “Recusal” refers to the circumstance where a judge declines to hear a case because impartiality may be questioned Importance highlighted by Supreme Court decision in Massey v. Caperton. Argument that not needed because of limits on individual contributions.

31 League of Women Voters® of Ohio / Education Fund Bi-Partisan or Nonpartisan Commission Without constitutional amendment, Governor Strickland has implemented a bi-partisan commission to make recommendations to governor about candidates for judicial vacancies. Continuance of commission subject to decision of subsequent governors.

32 League of Women Voters® of Ohio / Education Fund Judicial Performance Evaluation Provides voters with objective, relevant information to base decision on selecting judges. Even without adopting retention election system, information would be valuable if provided by diverse commission.

33 League of Women Voters® of Ohio / Education Fund Role of Judiciary/Separation of Powers Independent and impartial judiciary has critical role to play in maintaining the separation of powers. Judiciary prevents abuse of power by other branches. If judges are elected to carry out a political agenda, they cease to perform this function and impartiality is threatened.

34 League of Women Voters® of Ohio / Education Fund What can Local Leagues do? Hold candidate forums for judges. Promote Secretary of State’s Voter Guide on the Judiciary. Educate voters about unique role of judiciary. Educate voters about reform measures.

35 League of Women Voters® of Ohio / Education Fund Judicial Selection


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