|To the Editor: Voters need to learn about $ spent on supreme court races|
|Written by Many, see letter|
|Thursday, 13 August 2009 08:14|
The U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision in Caperton et al. v. A. T. Massey Coal, Inc. made clear judges must step aside/recuse themselves in cases involving supporters who have made large campaign contributions to them. It is likely many courts will consider adopting stricter recusal standards following this decision. Although this may be a good first step, we do not believe this alone will solve the fundamental underlying problem: the huge amounts of money spent on judicial races. This phenomenon is undermining Americans' confidence in the fairness, impartiality and integrity of those courts.
Ohio has long experienced bitter judicial races involving massive sums of money. More money was spent on judicial campaigns in Ohio in 2000, 2002 and 2004 than in any other state. A New York Times study found that Ohio Supreme Court justices voted in favor of their contributors over 70% of the time
A USA Today poll found that 9 out of 10 people believe contributions to judges are a problem. When a judge is, or appears to be, beholden to contributors, his or her ability to render impartial justice is undermined in appearance, if not in fact.
Studies funded by the Education Fund of the LWV have found good solutions to this problem. One is to appoint judges, with a retention election following a reasonable amount of time on the bench. This gives voters the opportunity to evaluate the judge's performance and remove judges who are not doing a good job. Another approach is to provide public financing for campaigns.
The League of Women Voters urges Ohioans to educate themselves on this issue-and learn just how much money has been spent on Ohio Supreme Court races by visiting www.ohioimpact.org/
The League of Women Voters
Bowling Green Chapter
President Roger Anderson
Co-Presidents: Josette McCarthy and Carol Russell
Toledo-Lucas County Chapter
Co-Presidents: E. Jay Murphy and Rosemary Alloy
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