This politicization of the courts was the focus of a recent report from Brennan Center For Justice at the New York University Law School. In it, the authors examine the growing cost of state Supreme Court races, and the heightened potential influence donor dollars might have on the judges that receive them..
The report found that record-breaking money is being spent on state Supreme Court races across the country. And that’s led court-watchers and advocates of independent jurisprudence to worry aloud whether all this money is undermining courts seen as the last word in state law disputes and a check on the executive and legislative branches of state government.
Maida Milone, president and CEO or Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, a group that’s monitored the state’s Supreme Court races for 20 years and is an advocate for changes in the way judges are seated, agreed with Bannon’s assertion that party politics played a large role in the high cost of the contests.
“It was an opportunity to make an impact on the bench – either on the partisan leaning or the philosophies of the judges,” Milone said.
According to the Brennan Center report, about $5.7 million of the money spent on state Supreme Court races in Pennsylvania in 2015 was from independent groups that relied on dark money. It’s impossible to trace where it came from and what influence was expected in return, and Milone said that creates an appearance of impropriety that needs to be avoided.
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