Justice For Sale

Certain American values transcend partisan divisions. One is that money should not influence the courts. But with record sums pouring into judicial elections, the ideal of due process is giving way to a perception of pay-to-play justice...

March 22, 2008

(cross posted from The Wall Street Journal):

Certain American values transcend partisan divisions. One is that money should not influence the courts. But with record sums pouring into judicial elections, the ideal of due process is giving way to a perception of pay-to-play justice.

This is not a matter of red versus blue. Seventy-six percent of Americans believe that campaign contributions influence judicial decisions, according to a 2001-2002 survey by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and American Viewpoint; 46% of state court judges agree, according to a written survey by the same organizations. Separate recent empirical studies in the New York Times and the Tulane Law Review support the proposition that contributions not only correlate with decisions, but alter them.

John Grisham's latest bestseller, "The Appeal," is a shadowy tale of a chemical company that buys a favorable legal ruling by funding the election of the judge who makes it. Farfetched? Not according to West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Larry Starcher. In a scathing opinion last month, he decried a "cancer" of moneyed influence in his court, asserting that "John Grisham got it right when he said that he simply had to read The Charleston Gazette to get an idea for his next novel."

Read the full Wall Street Journal piece here.