With three seats open on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and a chance to flip control of the judicial branch, a wave of campaign cash, independent expenditures and negative TV ads flooded the state in the weeks before the November election. Six candidates combined for $12.2 million in contributions, with two independent groups spending $3.5 million. The record sum for a state judicial election serves as a hint of what lies ahead when voters in two dozen states will cast ballots for state supreme court justices in 2016. The flow of money into state judicial races has been rising in recent years and shows no sign of slowing down. Races in a handful of states, including Ohio and North Carolina, are among those that will be watched closely.
“There is every indication it will be another record spending election, with more outside money in a smaller set of hands,” said Scott Greytak of Justice at Stake, an advocacy group that pushes for various reforms, including public financing of judicial elections. “It’s going to be bad news across all fronts.”
The increase in political funding has raised questions about how courts can maintain their independence when campaign donors and interest groups spend so much money seeking influence on the bench.
The debate is not limited to a handful of states. Thirty-eight hold some form of election for their highest courts, whether it is a partisan, nonpartisan or retention election in which justices face an up-or-down vote.
Full Article: News from The Associated Press.