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Study of Nevada Supreme Court Primary Indicates Moderate Spending But Need for Caution

August 18, 2006

For Immediate Release
Friday, August 18, 2006

Study of Nevada Supreme Court Primary Indicates Moderate Spending But Need for Caution

New York, NY Following shortly after a Los Angeles Times investigative series focusing on the ethics of several Nevada judges, the states recent Supreme Court primary races were surprisingly restrained. A study by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law shows that, of the eight candidates vying for three seats on the Nevada Supreme Court, only two candidates ran television advertisements.

Incumbent Justice Nancy Becker spent a little under $61,000 to run one unique ad that aired 94 times in the state, while one of her opponents, District Judge Nancy Saitta spent a little over $81,000 on two unique ads that aired a combined 151 times. Justice Becker and Judge Saitta, who finished in the top two for Supreme Court Seat G, will advance to the general election. Two other candidates for Seat G who did not advertise failed to advance. Three candidates vied for Supreme Court Seat F, including incumbent Justice Michael Douglas, but none of the three candidates spent money on television advertising. District Judge Michael Cherry is unopposed for Seat C.

At a time when judicial candidates are dramatically increasing their expenditures on television advertising, it is refreshing to see a state where candidate spending on television ads actually decreased relative to 2004 levels, said James Sample, Associate Counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice. In Nevadas 2004 primary election four candidates combined to spend $650,940 on campaign advertising. The 2004 Nevada primary did not occur until September 7, which likely accounts for part of the decrease.

While spending on advertising during the primary was moderate, campaign contribution and expenditure reports filed with the Nevada Secretary of State on August 8, indicate Judge Saittas campaign had already raised more than $295,000 and Justice Becker had received almost $277,000. Justice Becker and Judge Saitta will face each other again in the general election in November.

As the general election approaches, Nevadas candidates should take the high road and ensure that the races do not degenerate as others have around the country, said Deborah Goldberg, Director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center. The primary election offers reasons for concern about the character of the advertising.. Already one ad featured Judge Saitta lauding her record of keep[ing] criminals behind bars and offering a promise to Nevada citizens that she will protect [their] property rights. Goldberg says that Nevada risks losing public confidence in the fairness of state courts when judicial candidates stake out clear positions on matters likely to arise before the courts.

Nevada holds non-partisan judicial elections2C in which judicial candidates do not run under the banners of political parties. In this years Nevada primaries, neither special interest groups, nor political parties engaged in spending on television advertising. That stands in contrast to trends in other states with non-partisan judicial elections. In 2004 in Mississippi, for example, special interest groups spent nearly $160,000 on television advertising to sway voters in favor of judges the groups supported. In Georgia the Democratic Party spent more than $191,000 on television advertising comparing judicial candidates, even though the judges were not officially affiliated with a party.

The Brennan Center has been studying television advertising in state Supreme Court elections since 2000. The Center will issue weekly real-time reports after Labor Day. For a detailed summary of the ads, see The summarized data was gathered by TNS-Media Intelligence/CMAG, which tracks the nations top 100 broadcast markets and national cable advertising and provides estimates on the cost of each TV spot. For a copy of storyboards or streaming video of the ads, please contact Lauren Jones at .