State judicial elections have been transformed during the past decade. The story of America’s 2000–2009 high court contests—tens of millions of dollars raised by candidates from parties who may appear before them, millions more poured in by interest groups, nasty and misleading ads, and pressure on judges to signal courtroom rulings on the campaign trail—has become the new normal.
For more than a decade, partisans and special interests of all stripes have been growing more organized in their efforts to use elections to tilt the scales of justice their way. Many Americans have come to fear that justice is for sale. Unlike previous editions, which covered only the most recent election cycle, this fifth edition of the “New Politics of Judicial Elections” looks at the 2000–2009 decade as a whole. By tallying the numbers and “connecting the dots” among key players over the last five election cycles, this report offers a broad portrait of a grave and growing challenge to the impartiality of our nation’s courts.