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Watchdog Says Mich. Judicial Election Ads Create ‘Orgy of Negativity’

Posted Nov 4, 2008 10:34 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Dueling television ads criticizing two candidates vying for a seat on the Michigan Supreme Court are creating an “orgy of negativity,” according to the executive director of the Justice at Stake Campaign.

Bert Brandenburg made the comment in an interview with the National Law Journal. The ads depict Chief Justice Cliff Taylor as asleep on the bench and a “good soldier” of big business, and portray challenger Diane Hathaway as a terrorist sympathizer who gave light sentences as a trial judge to sexual predators.

"Unfortunately, the worst is happening again," Brandenburg said. "The crisis in judicial elections continues to grow. Special interests of all stripes are still fueling a financial arms race, in hopes of claiming court seats as political prizes."

He told the National Law Journal of these problems in judicial races:

• Problems with a false attack ad in Mississippi. A recent story in the Jackson Free Press characterized the supreme court election there as a power struggle between plaintiffs lawyers and pro-business defense interests. Business is backing Chief Justice Jim Smith.

• Special interest spending in Alabama. Spending on one court race there has reached $4.3 million, the Times Daily reports.

• A battle over the all-Republican supreme court in Texas. Democrats vying for seats are claiming the court is biased in favor of business and insurance interests, the Austin American-Statesman reports.

• High spending on TV ads in Louisiana. Two appeals court justices there are in a “heated” battle to fill a supreme court seat, reports 2theadvocate.com.

• West Virginia, where the chief justice was defeated in a primary after allegations that he had vacationed with a litigant.

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