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Buying Time 2010

The 2010 reports continue the groundbreaking analysis conducted since 2000 examining the sponsorship, content and costs of televised state Supreme Court campaign ads.

Published: September 9, 2010

The Brennan Center’s “Buying Time 2010” page features every judicial television advertisement that was aired in those states holding elections for state supreme courts in 2010.  Every advertisement is available for viewing in video format.  We also feature storyboards for each ad, which include screen captures of the ads at timed intervals, along with a transcription of the ad’s complete text.  Finally, we provide summaries of the amounts spent on TV ads in different states, and breakdowns of which groups are doing the spending. See below for links to state-by-state coverage.  (TV ads, storyboards, and figures on spending are provided to the Brennan Center by Kantar Media/CMAG.)

Our 2010 reporting continued the groundbreaking  analysis first conducted in 2000 examining the sponsorship, content, and costs of televised state supreme court campaign ads. Analyses of advertising over these election cycles has culminated in six reports: The New Politics of Judicial ElectionsThe New Politics of Judicial Elections 2002The New Politics of Judicial Elections 2004The New Politics of Judicial Elections 2006The New Politics of Judicial Elections, 2000–2009: Decade of Change and The New Politics of Judicial Elections 2010. These studies document the growing threats to fair and impartial courts from big money, special interest pressure, and television air wars.

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State Analysis | News | Methodology | Spending

State Breakdowns

Alabama | Alaska | Arkansas | Colorado | Idaho | Illinois | Iowa | Michigan

Montana | North Carolina | Ohio | TexasWashington | West Virginia

Real Time Analysis 

Throughout the election season the Brennan Center issued a series of analyses focused on judicial election spending 

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This ad from the Michigan State Democratic Party slams Bob Young, an incumbent justice on Michigan’s high court.  The ad refers to media reports in which Young’s former colleague, retired Justice Elizabeth Weaver, said that Young “used the word ‘slut’ and the N-word” and calls upon Michigan voters to call Young and tell him “we don’t need a racist or a sexist on the Michigan Supreme Court.”  This hard-hitting ad is reminiscent of a notorious attack ad the Michigan Democrats ran against then-Chief Justice Cliff Taylor in 2008, which accused Taylor of sleeping on the bench.


This hard hitting attack ad features a dramatization in which a series of actors recount the grisly details of crimes —"stabbing my victims with a kitchen knife," “shooting my ex-girlfriend,” and being convicted of “sexual assault on a mom and her ten year-old daughter” — and then informs viewers that “Justice Thomas Kilbride sided with us over law enforcement of victims.”  The ad’s narrator then urges a “no” vote on Justice Kilbride’s retention.  The ad is paid for by JUSTPAC, the political action committee of the Illinois Civil Justice League (ICJL).   Though the soft on crime message targets Justice Kilbride’s record on criminal justice issues, ICJL’s mission is unrelated to criminal justice:  it works in the civil justice system and focuses on tort issues.  Among the groups underwiting ICJL’s attacks on Kilbride are the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Tort Reform Association, and the American Justice Partnership, a creation of the National Association of Manufacturers.


This ad, entitled “Soft on Crime,” attacks Judge Denise Langford Morris, who is challenging incumbent Justice Robert Young of the Michigan Supreme Court.  The ad attacks Morris for being “soft on crime for rappers, lawyers, and child pornographers” and tells viewers to urge her to “get tough on convicted criminals.”  The ad is sponsored by a Virginia-based group, the Law Enforcement Association of America. Published reports have linked this group to the National Rifle Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The group has previously bought air time in judicial races in Mississippi (in 2002 and 2008) and Pennsylvania (in 2001).  A 2008 ad sponsored by the LEAA was pulled from TV stations in Mississippi after it was denounced as misleading by a state committee on judicial campaign conduct.


Iowa for Freedom continues its attack on the three incumbent Iowa Supreme Court Justices who are sitting for retention this fall. This negative ad — the group’s second ad this election cycle to attack the justices for their votes to strike down Iowa’s ban on same-sex marriage — claims that “none of the freedoms we hold dear are safe from judicial activism.” These ads are typical of the kind of attack ads that have become prevalent in judicial elections over the last ten years — and which are increasingly paid for by political parties and outside special interest groups rather than judicial candidates themselves. (In 2008, these groups paid for 87% of all negative ads in judicial races.)Iowa for Freedom is affiliated with two national conservative groups, the American Family Association and National Organization for Marriage (“NOM”), which have been active in opposing gay marriage. NOM reported spending $235,000 in September for the first ad run by Iowa for Freedom, and on Tuesday, October 19th, NOM reported that it is spending $200,000 for this second ad.



A.G. Sulzberger, Ouster of Iowa Judges Sends Signal to Bench,New York Times, November 3, 2010.

Editorial, Firing Judges, Washintgon Post, November 5, 2010.

Kate Moser, Panel of Judges Evaluates the Threat of Elections, Current Political Climate, Legal Pad, October 14, 2010.

Our view on judicial independence: Judges face reprisals for unpopular rulings, USA Today, October 19, 2010. 



All data on ad airings and spending on ads are calculated and prepared by Kantar Media/CMAG, which captures satellite data in the nation’s largest media markets. CMAG’s estimates do not reflect ad agency commissions or the costs of producing advertisements, nor do they reflect the cost of ad buys on local cable channels. Cost estimates are revised by Kantar Media/CMAG when it receives updated data, resulting in some fluctuations in the reported ad spending.