Fair Courts E-Lert: MI Justice Says She Faced “Bullying and Intimidation” Over Redistricting Case; Quotas for Immigration Judges Takes Effect

October 5, 2018

 

 
 
 
 
 

STATE COURTS

Michigan Justice Says She Faced “Bullying and Intimidation” Over Redistricting Case

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Clement said she faced “bullying and intimidation” while considering a case about whether a voter-initiated redistricting proposal could go on the November ballot.
 
Clement, appointed by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, will face challengers to remain on the bench in November. She told The Detroit News that “outside interests” seeking to block the redistricting reform proposal from the ballot pressured her as she was considering the case. Clement ultimately voted with the majority to approve the ballot measure, which was opposed by state Republicans.
 
According to The Detroit News, following Clement’s decision, “the Michigan Republican Party…left her name and photo off door hangers distributed by volunteers,” although the hangers listed every other statewide Republican candidate. Clement called this decision “unprecedented.” The Michigan Republican Party “would not say whether Clement would be excluded from future literature.”
 
Michigan Supreme Court Justice David Viviano criticized the pressures Clement faced, arguing, “People are entitled to their own viewpoints on how a case should be decided. But it is inappropriate to direct those views at a member of the court while the case is being decided.”

STATE COURTS

All Seven Arkansas Supreme Court Justices Face Formal Ethics Charges

On September 20 and October 5th, Arkansas’ judicial ethics commission filed ethics violation charges against all seven justices on the Arkansas Supreme Court -- the first time in the commission’s 30-year history that formal ethics charges have been brought against the state’s Supreme Court justices.
 
In 2017, Arkansas Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen temporarily blocked state-planned executions. That same day, he participated in an anti-death penalty protest. In response, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge asked the Arkansas Supreme Court to vacate Griffen’s order and take him off the case, arguing that Griffen couldn’t be impartial on the death penalty.
 
After Griffen missed a court-imposed deadline to respond to Rutledge’s request, the court banned him from hearing any death-penalty cases.
 
Griffen then filed a complaint with the Arkansas Judicial and Disability Commission. The Commission found “probable cause to believe that [the justices] have violated the canons and rules of judicial conduct,” as it did “not find that the notice to Judge Griffen and his ability to respond were sufficient.”

If the Commission concludes the justices violated judicial canons, punishments could include reprimand or removal from the bench.

 

STATE COURTS

Common Cause Ohio Report on Contributions to 2018 Ohio Supreme Court Candidates

This week, Common Cause Ohio released a new report, Can Money Buy Justice? Contributions to Ohio Supreme Court Candidates 2018, tracking campaign fundraising by 2018 candidates for the Ohio Supreme Court, as well as independent expenditures.
 
The report finds that “[m]illions of dollars have poured into campaigns for Ohio’s highest court,” much of which is “dark money.” Major campaign contributors to 2018 Ohio Supreme Court candidates, the report documents, include business and legal interests. The report also tracks 2018 independent expenditures by political parties, and historical independent expenditures by outside special interest groups in Ohio Supreme Court elections.
 
Despite this spending, “[o]nce elected, judges in Ohio can and do hear the cases of their campaign contributors.” Common Cause makes several recommendations to minimize the risks to judicial independence, including “commonsense recusal rules” that mandate judges not hear cases involving major campaign supporters and “requiring disclosure of independent expenditures in judicial races.”
 

 

 

 

IMMIGRATION COURTS

Quotas for Immigration Judges Takes Effect

On October 1, the Trump Administration’s new numerical and time-based quota system for immigration judges’ performance evaluations went into effect.
 
Earlier this year, the DOJ announced it would begin evaluating immigration judges’ performance based on how many cases they complete and how quickly they complete certain stages. To receive a “satisfactory” rating, immigration judges must now complete at least 700 cases per year, and meet three of six time “benchmarks,” among other requirements.
 
Critics argue quotas undermine independent judicial decision-making and pressure immigration judges to prioritize speed over due process. Ashley Tabaddor, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, said this policy reflects a “new and dark era.” And on Monday, a group of retired immigration judges and members of the Board of Immigration Appeals argued, “Never before, in our experience, has EOIR so directly and strongly undermined the decisional independence of Immigration Judges.”