Endless Curiosity

March 1, 2009

The trouble with electing judges

Filed under: Uncategorized — Alec @ 11:03 pm

I don’t know if you’ve read John Grisham’s book, The Appeal, so I won’t spoil the ending. Suffice to say that it’s about the buying of elected State Supreme Court Judges by corporations with the money to put into their campaigns. Grisham is clearly very, very troubled by the corruption of justice that this leads to.

Interestingly, the latest edition of The Economist describes a very similar situation in West Virginia, where “in 2004 Don Blankenship, the chief executive of Massey Energy, spent $3m to help elect Brent Benjamin to West Virginia’s Supreme Court. In 2007 Mr Benjamin voted to overturn a $50m judgment against Massey.” This $3m represented 60% of Benjamin’s campaign money, and came at a time that Massey Energy was preparing for an appeal. Wow, shades of The Appeal.

Anyway, 67% of West Virginians believed that Benjamin was NOT impartial, and a poll by USA Today found that “89% of those surveyed believe the influence of campaign contributions on judges’ rulings is a problem“. USA Today has a long article about this situation.

Of course, you probably don’t care. Unless you are on the receiving end of a Supreme Court ruling where judges have been bought. It reminds me of Pastor Martin Niemöller’s famous quote (one of the many versions):

In Germany, they came first for the Communists,
And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;
And then they came for the trade unionists,
And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;
And then they came for the Jews,
And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;
And then they came for me
And by that time there was no one left to speak up

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