Fri October 18, 2013
Report: Supreme Court Justices More Likely To Rule For Attorneys Who Contribute To Their Campaigns
A new report by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism finds that state Supreme Court judges tend to rule in favor of attorneys who contribute to their election campaigns.
The report analyzed campaign contributions made over the past decade by attorneys who had cases pending before the court. It found that when an attorney contributed to a judge's campaign before the case was decided, the judge ruled in favor of that attorney's client 59 percent of the time.
Mike McCabe tracks the role of money in elections for the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. He says such contributions before or after a ruling can create a perception that the judge might be influenced by money: “If donations come in before a ruling, it's going to be seen as a request for a favor,” he said. “If it comes after a ruling, it's going to be seen as a reward for that decision, and both are very corrosive.”
Only two judges agreed to an interview about the Center's findings. Justice Patience Roggensack says attorneys don't contribute to judicial campaigns to gain advantage in a case, but do so because they support that judge's philosophy. Justice Patrick Crooks agrees, but he thinks the state should adopt the federal standard requiring Supreme Court judges to withdraw from cases when there's even a perception they might be influenced by a campaign contribution.
Legislators considered such a change in 2010 but decided not to adopt it. “What the legislative council wanted to do, and what I hoped they would do,“ Crooks said, ”was to put into the statutory provisions an objective standard that was set forth in the same language basically as the federal statute.”
A bill that would adopt that standard, introduced by Democratic state Rep. Gary Hebl, is currently stalled in committee and unlikely to be considered this year.
You can read the entire story on the influence of campaign contributions on state Supreme Court rulings at http://www.wisconsinwatch.org/, and in newspapers across the state.