News

Lawmakers to Review Judicial Evaluation Commission

Lawmakers Tuesday questioned whether the Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission (JPEC) violates the Tennessee Constitution, the Tennessean reports. The House Government Operations Committee heard testimony from several people, including John Jay Hooker, who brought lawsuits against Gov. Bill Haslam, Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell last year contesting the constitutionality of the JPEC and retention election statutes. After hearing the testimony, the committee sent the constitutionality question to the Joint Subcommittee of Government Operations, Judiciary and Government, which will meet this summer. Gavel Grab has more.

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Report: Special Interest Money Increasing in Judicial Elections

Spending by special interest groups continues to rise in judicial elections, accounting for 27 percent of all the money spent on the races in 2011 and 2012, according to a new report by a Justice at Stake partner organization. This is a sharp increase from the 16 percent seen in the 2003 and 2004 elections, which held the previous high in outside spending. The report has detailed information about judges who raised the most money and donors who gave the most, and it also identifies funding trends. As an example, the report says that during his campaign for chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court in 2012, Roy Moore raised more out-of-state money than any other appeals court judge running in the country. Moore’s campaign took in $265,440 — or 41 percent of his total campaign contributions — from donors in 49 states, the District of Columbia, and Australia and Canada. Gavel Grab has more.

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NC Supreme Court Candidates Face Difficulties in Campaigns

Judges vying for North Carolina’s State Supreme Court face difficult and expensive challenges on the campaign trail ever since the state did away with public financing for judicial candidates last year, Gavel Grab reports. Judicial candidates can’t make promises or use traditional campaign tactics when trying to define their candidacies, which leads to an "awkward world of judges stumping for votes and money." North Carolina Supreme Court justice Cheri Beasley says the $1.2 to $2 million her consultants say she needs to raise for her reelection bid is outrageous. “We want judges that are focusing on doing their jobs and not focusing on being politicians,” she said.

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Alaska Supreme Court Faces Possible Changes in Selection

The Alaska Supreme Court has come out against legislative efforts to change Alaska's judicial nomination process, Alaska Dispatch reports. But that political role for the justices has now drawn criticism, too, with one legislator saying he was "appalled" at the court's involvement in politics. Candidates for judicial appointments in Alaska currently are sent to the governor by the Judicial Council, a group made up of three lawyers appointed by the Alaska Bar and three citizen members appointed by the governor, along with the state's chief justice as the seventh member.

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Vandy Law Hosts 'Justice at Risk' Conference

Judicial selection and the role money plays in judicial elections will be the focus of a conference held at Vanderbilt Law School March 20-21. Titled “Justice at Risk: Research Opportunities and Policy Alternatives Regarding State Judicial Selection,” the conference will focus specifically on how the method of selecting state judges affects judicial decision making. It is jointly sponsored by the American Constitution Society, the American Judicature Society, and Vanderbilt Law.

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White House Touts Diversity in Judicial Nominations

President Barack Obama today nominated five lawyers for trial and appellate courts, including a state judge in Florida who would be the first openly gay male African-American on the federal bench. According to the National Law Journal, the White House is touting the nominations as part of Obama’s effort to expand the gender and racial diversity of the nation’s courts. The White House today published an updated graphic that spotlights Obama’s judicial nominations to date.

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New PAC to Educate Public on Judicial Issues

Tennesseans for Independent Courts, a new nonprofit political action committee, has announced it will educate the public on the “dangers of partisan political pressures on judicial elections and appointments.” The group, formed Jan. 10 by former personnel commissioner Randy Camp, who served in Gov. Phil Bredesen’s cabinet, will also provide support to judicial candidates who want to run for office without political affiliations, and back legislative and gubernatorial candidates who want the same. Camp states that the non-profit corporation has filed for 501 (c) designation with the IRS, and will be dedicated to informing, educating, engaging and involving the citizens of Tennessee in ensuring that the judicial branch of Tennessee’s government remains free and independent of partisan political pressures from any group or organization. KnoxBlogs has more.

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