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Report

The New Politics of Judicial Elections, 2000–2009: Decade of Change

Summary: 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.

  • Brennan Center for Justice
Published: August 16, 2010

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.