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ABA President Decries Expensive Judicial Races

Posted Nov 6, 2008 1:52 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The home state of ABA President H. Thomas Wells Jr. was the site of this year’s most expensive judicial race, and Wells isn’t happy about it.

Wells said in a press release issued today that judges in Alabama and states like it are set up to rely on campaign contributions from interests that argue before the courts.

“Judges should be accountable to the law and the Constitution, not the whims of the day or to popular public opinion,” he said. “We urge citizens in states under the grip of increasingly costly court races to band together and find solutions that remove the potential influence of money from our courts.”

Spending on the race for an open seat on the Alabama Supreme Court surpassed $5 million, making it the most expensive state high court race this year. Criminal appeals judge Greg Shaw narrowly won the contested seat in Tuesday’s election, the Birmingham News reports. The most recent tally showed the two candidates spent a combined $3.8 million and a group supporting Shaw spent $1.3 million.

The issue of campaign contributions is raising legal ethics and constitutional issues. A cert petition pending before the U.S. Supreme Court contends a West Virginia Supreme Court justice was constitutionally required to recuse himself in a corporate case because he received more than $3 million in campaign contributions from the company’s CEO.

The ABA has urged the Supreme Court to accept the case, Caperton v. A. T. Massey Coal Co.

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