Study Says La. Supreme Court Justices Apparently Swayed by Campaign Cash
Posted Jan 29, 2008 12:02 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss
A Tulane University law professor has conducted a study of the Louisiana Supreme Court that finds campaign contributions appear to influence the justices’ votes.
The study found that, on average, justices vote in favor of their contributors 65 percent of the time, and that the larger the contribution, the more likely a favorable vote, Adam Liptak writes in his Sidebar column for the New York Times.
Tulane law professor Vernon Valentine Palmer conducted the study with economics professor John Levendis of Loyola University in New Orleans, who helped with the statistics. It will be published next month in The Tulane Law Review.
Palmer wanted to control for the judges’ legal philosophies, so he examined the justices’ voting records when no campaign contributions were involved. His analysis found that it was contributions, rather than legal philosophies, that appeared to make a difference.
Justice John Weimer, for example, tended to be slightly pro-defendant when money was not involved. But when the defense gave money, or gave more money than plaintiffs, he voted for plaintiffs only 25 percent of the time, Liptak reports. When plaintiffs contributed or gave more money, he voted with them 90 percent of the time.
Weimer was 300 percent more likely to vote for a defendant with each additional $1,000 donation, the story says.
Palmer has a solution to the problem: He thinks justices should not rule in cases in which they accept campaign money from a lawyer or litigant.