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2006 State Supreme Court Races to Watch

September 7, 2006

For Immediate Release
Thursday, September 7, 2006

Contact Information
Susan Lehman
212 998–6318

2006 State Supreme Court Races to Watch

New York, NY Two months from today Supreme Court justices in 16 states will face contested elections. In five of those statesAlabama, Kentucky, Georgia, Texas, and North Carolinaa majority of the members on the states highest court will be on the ballot. This may be a watershed year for judicial elections, said James Sample, counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. The cost of judicial campaigns skyrocketed in 2004 and, with so many judges on the ballot this November, we may see unprecedented politicization of judicial elections. The following is a list of selected states to watch based on judicial campaigns to date.

Alabamas Republican primary earlier this year was one of the nations costliest and dirtiest since the Brennan Center first began tracking television advertising in judicial elections in 2000. Six candidates and one interest group spent a total of almost $2.7 million on television advertising. That figure represents a 59 percent increase over 2004, when seven candidates and two interest groups spent a little more than $1.7 million on television ads.

Perhaps even more noteworthy than the record spending, however, was the tone of the campaign. Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker and a slate of other candidates ran on a platform contending that the Alabama Supreme Court should not follow U.S. Supreme Court precedent. Running against incumbent Chief Justice Drayton Nabers, one of Justice Parkers ads criticized the U.S. Supreme Courts decision to strike down the death penalty for juveniles. With an ominous photo of a hand holding a knife and visuals of newspaper coverage of a murder, a voiceover in one ad said, Convicted of rape and murder, Ronaldo Adams was sentenced to death, but now Adams is off death row thanks to Chief Justice Drayton Nabers and the Alabama Supreme Court.

Business groups are throwing their political weight and money behind Georgia Supreme Court challengers, seeking to create a court that is friendlier to business interests. Under Georgia law, independent committees can make unlimited independent expenditures. Since January 2000, only 10 independent committees have registered with the Georgia Secretary of States office and the State Ethics Commission, but eight of those have registered in the past year, indicating that there will be an increase in special interest participation this year. One pro-business group, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, issued a scorecard labeling three of the four Supreme Court justices up for re-election this year as unfriendly to business. When special interests use their disproportionate financial power to oust judges who do not rule in their favor, the ability of judges to be fair and impartial is in danger, said Deborah Goldberg, director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center.

All but two of Kentuckys 274 circuit, district, appellate, and Supreme Court judges are up for election this year. Diversity may become an issue in the Supreme Court race between Justice William McAnulty and Judge Ann OMalley Shake. Earlier this summer the governor appointed Justice McAnulty for a seat on the states highest court, making him the first black member of the Kentucky Supreme Court. If Judge Shake wins the election, however, she would become just the third female justice in the courts history and20the only woman currently on the court.

Fundraising by Supreme Court candidates in Oregon this year is on track to break previous records. Court of Appeals Judge Virginia Linder and 2002 Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Roberts are facing off for the first open seat on the Supreme Court since 2000. According to campaign finance reports filed in July, Roberts has raised almost $382,130 while Linder has raised almost $136,570. By comparison, in 2004, Oregon Supreme Court candidates raised a combined $305,712 for the entire election cycle.

Although the Washington primary election is still two weeks away, according to pre-primary data released by the Public Disclosure Commission, six candidates for Washingtons Supreme20Court have already raised a total of more than $1 million, outpacing previous fundraising records. Three others who will appear20on the September 19 primary ballot have not raised any money. In 2004 the average Supreme Court candidate in Washington raised $115,171 for the entire election cycle, including the primary and the general election. Already this year, the six candidates who have raised funds have reported average receipts of $171,268.

For More Information

  • Buying Time 2006 reports, including links to the storyboards, will be available here throughout the campaign season.
  • The ads will also be included in the Justice at Stake 2006 Real Time Tracking project ( along with information about candidate fundraising and special interest activity.