Category Archives: judicial elections

“Georgia Supreme Court Justice Fends Off Challenger Who Made Abortion Rights a Focus”


The incumbent in the lone competitive race for a seat on the Georgia Supreme Court won re-election on Tuesday, according to The Associated Press, fending off a challenge from a former Democratic congressman who had built his campaign in the nonpartisan contest on protecting abortion rights.

Elections for the Supreme Court in Georgia are typically subdued affairs, drawing little attention, much less stirring controversy, as justices rarely face any serious opposition. Such was the case for the three other justices on the ballot on Tuesday, whose elections were uncontested.

But Justice Andrew A. Pinson was in the unusual position of having to fight to defend his seat after John Barrow, who represented Georgia in Congress as a Democrat from 2005 to 2015, entered the race.

During the campaign, Mr. Barrow said that Georgia’s Constitution guaranteed the right to an abortion, which, he argued, was not a political position but simply his interpretation of the law. Last year, the State Supreme Court upheld Georgia’s law banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, though a legal fight is ongoing.

The challenge from Mr. Barrow pushed Justice Pinson and his supporters to mobilize an effort that was costly and high-profile, at least by the standards of a State Supreme Court race. Justice Pinson sought to portray Mr. Barrow as a threat to an independent judiciary, arguing that voting for his opponent was tantamount to endorsing “a system of partisan politicians in black robes.”

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“Arizona Supreme Court justice targeted for removal over 1864 abortion ban blasts critics”

Arizona Republic:

Arizona Supreme Court Justice Clint Bolick forcefully decries the effort urging voters to remove him and a colleague from the bench since upholding the state’s 1864 abortion law, arguing his critics are “hijacking the retention process.”

In a 1,500-word opinion piece in The Arizona Republic published Monday, Bolick insults his critics, defends the abortion ruling and the state’s judges, and warns against a politically driven retention system that would be “game-over for the rule of law.”

Those seeking to oust him and Justice Kathryn H. King have turned to the slogan “Vote Them Out!” which, he said, “packs with venom what it lacks in substance.”

The liberal activist group Progress Arizona is advocating their removal, saying that when the court puts “ideology over the people” it is a “civic duty” to change justices.

“The groups opposing us need a serious civics lesson about the role of the courts. Nowhere in their materials will you read about the importance of an independent judiciary in protecting our free society,” Bolick wrote….

Bolick, 66, describes himself as an independent who has set Arizona’s record for judicial dissents. But he is also linked to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, the conservative justice who has become a symbol to many of the court’s rightward tilt and who has faced widespread complaints of violating the principles of judicial ethics. Thomas is godfather to one of Bolick’s children, according to the 2000 book “Gang of Five: Leaders at the Center of the Conservative Crusade” by Nina J. Easton.

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“2 Liberal Groups to Spend $5 Million on State Supreme Court Races”


Two groups on the left with differing missions are joining forces to bolster their preferred candidates in state supreme court races in November, as such elections grow increasingly expensive and politically polarizing.

The two organizations — the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, the Democrats’ arm in fighting for state and congressional maps; and Planned Parenthood Votes, the political arm of the abortion health care organization — will initially target races in Arizona, Michigan, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas. The fund, with a budget of $5 million, will provide digital ads along with funding for canvassing and get-out-the-vote operations.

“Our aim is to protect the independence of state supreme courts, to ensure that they are composed of justices who are dedicated to interpreting the law in a neutral way, who will adhere to precedent and who will protect the fundamental rights of all citizens,” Eric H. Holder Jr., the former attorney general who is chairman of the redistricting group, said in a statement announcing the joint venture.

Until recent years, state supreme court races were traditionally relatively nonpartisan affairs — in most states candidates are not officially affiliated with a political party — though partisan leanings could be gleaned from judicial rulings. But political interest in state supreme court races has exploded, culminating in a $50 million race for State Supreme Court in Wisconsin last year….

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“Wisconsin Supreme Court justice won’t seek reelection, shaking up the race”


The longest-serving member of the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s 4-3 liberal majority announced Thursday she would not run for reelection next year, shaking up a consequential race in a swing state and giving conservatives their last hope of regaining control of the court before 2028.

Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, who has served on the court since 1995, told The Washington Post ahead of her announcement that she is confident someone who shares her judicial perspective can replace her after she completes her term. But her retirement sets the stage for an intense race for control of the court two years after candidates, political parties and interest groups spent more than $50 million for a seat on the court in the most expensive judicial race in U.S. history.

In recent years, the court voted 4-3 to confirm Joe Biden’s win in the state’s last presidential election, ban ballot drop boxes and end a Republican gerrymander of the state legislature. Soon, by a similar margin, it could determine whether abortion remains legal in one of the country’s most closely watched presidential battlegrounds….

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Remedies Scholars Brief Filed in Chisom Judicial Elections Voting Rights Case Before En Banc Fifth Circuit

Remedies scholars Doug Laycock, Doug Rendleman, Caprice Roberts and I have filed this amicus brief in the Fifth Circuit, which is considering en banc Louisiana’s challenge to the consent decree in the Chisom case. It was written by a great team at O’Melveny featuring Kevin Kraft, Daniel Mateer, Stuart Sarnoff, and David Kelley.

From the Introduction:

The district court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to terminate—but offering to consider modification of—the Consent Decree requiring the State of Louisiana (the “State”) to continue to comply with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (“Section 2”) in an Orleans Parish-based district elections for the Louisiana Supreme Court. By its plain language, the Consent Decree is intended to apply prospectively to “ensure” the State’s continued compliance with Section 2 in the Orleans Parish-based district, ROA.98–99, until the State has made a sufficient evidentiary showing that relief from the terms of the Decree is warranted under Rule 60(b)(5). 

As the State has failed to offer any evidence of future compliance with Section 2, and given recent judicial findings that it continues to violate Section 2 as to other elections, it has not met its burden, rendering its present motion to terminate the Consent Decree inadequate as a matter of law. 

The Supreme Court has required that courts take federalism concerns seriously when a state asks to modify or terminate a consent decree imposed by a federal court. But invoking the term “federalism” does not allow the state to evade having to make its required evidentiary showing. In this case, the district court properly indicated it would consider modifying the Consent Decree in a flexible way in light of federalism principles if and when the State comes forward with actual evidence justifying modification. That day, however, has not yet arrived. 

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Poor Disclosure from Some State Supreme Courts

Fix the Court release:

State supreme court justices have the power to impact federal elections, redistricting, immigration, reproductive rights, gun rights and more, and yet most states are suppressing information about their top judges — either by making it difficult to obtain financial disclosure reports or requiring little to no information to be disclosed — in a way that shields them from accountability, according to a new report released today by Fix the Court.

In short, 24 of the 48 the states that require annual judicial disclosures don’t post their justices’ reports online, and 30 require less information to be disclosed than what the federal judiciary requires…..

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“Janet Protasiewicz campaign official claims vulgar reason for embedding horses in ads”

Milwakee Journal Sentinel:

Wisconsin voters were bombarded with ads last year in the most expensive state court race in U.S. history, but they probably didn’t notice commercials paid for by Janet Protasiewicz’s campaign featured a number of horses. That unusual detail was never explained to voters — until now, when a campaign official claimed a crude reason.

Protasiewicz’s campaign for Wisconsin Supreme Court used a portion of its massive fundraising haul to hide horse figurines and feature neighing in ads as an apparent subliminal reference to baseless inside jokes about her opponent fornicating with horses, Protasiewicz‘s campaign manager said in a recent interview.

Protasiewicz’s campaign manager Alejandro Verdin said in a Jan. 25 appearance with a liberal podcaster that the campaign hid images of horses in negative campaign ads against former Justice Daniel Kelly, and used audio of a horse neighing in one radio spot, to convey the message he alleged came from focus groups: that Kelly looked like a “horse (expletive).”…

According to a source with Protasiewicz’s campaign, the new justice was not aware of the horse imagery in the ads. Verdin, Protasiewicz, and other members of the campaign declined or did not respond to interview requests.

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“5th Circuit will rehear case that created Louisiana’s only Black supreme court seat”

Louisiana Illuminator:

The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to rehear a decades old voting rights case that established the only majority-Black state supreme court district in Louisiana, according to the court’s docket Monday afternoon. 

On Monday, the 5th Circuit granted a petition from the State of Louisiana for a rehearing en banc on Chisom v. State of Louisiana, a gerrymandering lawsuit that stems from the 1980s. In the lawsuit, Black voters argued the Louisiana Legislature gerrymandered the Louisiana Supreme Court districts by packing Black neighborhoods into majority-white districts. 

After protracted litigation that reached the U.S. Supreme Court, the state eventually agreed to a consent judgment in 1992 that settled the case by creating a majority-Black district based out of New Orleans. Associate Justice Piper Griffin currently holds the seat. 

However, the state, through then-Attorney General Jeff Landry, moved to dissolve the consent judgment in 2021 ahead of the legislature’s special session on redistricting the following year. 

Landry, a Republican who now serves as Louisiana’s governor, argued that the state no longer needs a federal court to force it to comply with the Voting Rights Act. He further argued that the consent judgment was only meant to be temporary and is being incorrectly used as a “perpetual federal check on the State.”

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“Recusal as Remedy: Disincentivizing Donors”

Benjamin Edelstein and Sara Benesh have written this article for State Politics & Policy Quarterly. Here is the abstract:

As judicial elections become increasingly expensive, recusal has emerged as a way to address concerns about the impartiality of judges who receive contributions from lawyers or potential litigants. While it is unclear if strict recusal rules are the best remedy for conflicts of interest created by contributions, they may disincentivize potential donors from investing in judicial campaigns by negating their potential goal of influencing decisions. We consider whether donor behavior in judicial campaigns – especially for those donors most likely to be interested in specifically currying favor with judges – responds to differences in recusal standards. Using data from 219 state supreme court races in 22 states from 2010 to 2020, we find that states with stricter recusal rules attract fewer campaign donations to judicial races, and states with more lax rules attract more overall and, most especially, for attorney donors.

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“Ohio Supreme Court Justice Jennifer Brunner sues over partisan label law”

Columbus Dispatch:

Ohio Supreme Court Justice Jennifer Brunner is suing to overturn the new law that requires partisan labels for supreme court and appellate court candidates.

In a lawsuit filed on Election Day, Brunner is asking the federal court to either declare the partisan label law unconstitutional or invalidate some of the rules that judges must abide by when campaigning for public office. Those rules include resigning from the bench before running for a nonjudicial office.

The lawsuit hints that Brunner, a Democrat now living in Columbiana County, may want to keep her option open to run for governor in 2026.

Brunner lost her bid for chief justice in 2022 against Republican Sharon Kennedy. That was the first election cycle in which the partisan label law was in force.

Brunner argues that the new law forces some judicial candidates to campaign on an unfair playing field.

They must follow the judicial canons, which restrict how they campaign. Failure to follow the canons can lead to discipline − anything from a public reprimand to disbarment.

Brunner also argues that partisan labels on appellate judges and supreme court justices gives the public the impression that they’ll act as a “partisan check” on nonpartisan trial court judges.

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