Justice for sale

Justice shall not be sold, nor shall it be denied.

That’s at least 800 years old.”

Five years ago last week, the U.S. Supreme Court opened the floodgates to unlimited political donations with the Citizens United decision.

In the 1970s, more than half of our state’s Supreme Court justices resigned in the midst of corruption scandals.

Two of them had actually attempted to fix cases on behalf of campaign supporters.

That’s corruption.

Today, the risk is even greater as an increasing amount of money is spent on judicial races.

http://www.dailycommercial.com/

Justice for sale

“On Tuesday, the court considered striking down a Florida Bar rule that helps ensure the wave of campaign cash doesn’t corrupt our judicial system.

The case involves a woman who unsuccessfully ran for judge in Hillsborough County in 2009. After signing a fundraising letter, she was reprimanded and required to pay $1,860 in court costs.

Florida’s Code of Judicial Conduct restricts judicial candidates from personally soliciting campaign contributions. Twenty-nine of the 39 other states with judicial elections have similar restrictions.

The Supreme Court seemed divided on whether such rules violate the First Amendment, according to news reports.

Justices pointed out seeming inconsistencies with a rule that bans judicial candidates from personally appealing for money but allows them to write thank-you notes to contributors.

But the difference is significant. As The New York Times reported, Justice Antonin Scalia noted the distinction between saying thanks and begging for money — with the latter being demeaning to judicial dignity.

More importantly, it erodes public confidence in an impartial judiciary when judges personally seek campaign contributions. It can also lead to outright corruption, a problem with which Florida is all too familiar.

In the 1970s, more than half of our state’s Supreme Court justices resigned in the midst of corruption scandals.

Two of them had actually attempted to fix cases on behalf of campaign supporters.

That’s corruption.

Today, the risk is even greater as an increasing amount of money is spent on judicial races.

Judicial candidates raised about $83.3 million from 1990 to 1999, a figure that jumped to $206.9 million over the next decade, according to a study by an Emory University law professor.

Such money threatens to destroy the role of judges as neutral arbiters of the law.

As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer noted,

“Justice shall not be sold, nor shall it be denied.

That’s at least 800 years old.”

But as Chief Justice John Roberts also noted, justices weren’t elected 800 years ago.

Florida is among 39 states that elect at least some of their judges. Switching completely to a merit-based nominating system would help create a more independent judiciary.

But even that system isn’t free of political influence. Florida’s judicial nominating commissions have had their political independence reduced in recent years and nearly eliminated under Gov. Rick Scott, who has repeatedly rejected Florida Bar choices for the posts in favor of his own, more conservative choices.

In this environment, the Bar’s rule restricting judges from soliciting contributions seems almost quaint. Yet if for nothing more than its symbolism, it is an important measure to show that justice shouldn’t be for sale in our country.

The rule should be allowed to remain.”

From Halifax Media Group

http://leesburgdailycommercial.fl.newsmemory.com/

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  1. Pingback: Justice shall not be sold, nor shall it be denied. | sachemspeaks

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