State supreme court justices are favoring the corporate interests that finance their election campaigns, a comprehensive new study concludes. With more judicial elections now awash in dollars, the study of several thousand court decisions found a relationship between business-affiliated contributions and how justices voted. The more business money a supreme court justice has received, the more likely she or he is to support business litigants, according to the yearlong study by the American Constitution Society, a liberal advocacy group. “We have reason to be worried,” study author Joanna Shepherd said Tuesday. “Business groups tend to spend far more on judicial elections than any other interest group.”
An economist and associate professor at Emory University Law School, Shepherd analyzed 2,345 court decisions issued between 2010 and 2012, along with more 175,000 contribution records.
An elected judge who receives 1 percent of his or her contributions from the business sector votes, on average, for pro-business position about 46 percent of the time, according to the study. A judge who receives a quarter of his or her contributions from business votes with business 62 percent of the time, the study found. A judge who receives half from business votes with business about two-thirds of the time.
As with legislative campaign contributions, though, the new analysis raises a vexing chicken-and-egg question about whether donations change voting behavior or simply reflect common interests between donor and recipient. Many judicial decisions, moreover, defy any connection to campaign contributions.