Brennan Center Defends West Virginia Judicial Public Financing Program

July 31, 2012

Group Represents Republican Supreme Court Candidate in State and Federal Court Actions

The Brennan Center for Justice filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia, seeking to compel election officials to comply with the state’s public financing program for judicial elections. 

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Allen H. Loughry II, a Republican candidate for a seat on the West Virginia Supreme Court. Loughry is represented by the Brennan Center, along with Marc E. Williams of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, LLP. On Tuesday, Loughry’s legal team also filed a motion to intervene in a separate lawsuit in federal court, in order to defend the public financing law. The federal lawsuit challenges the public funding program, and was filed by the campaign attorney for Loughry’s opponent.

“West Virginia’s public financing program for judicial elections is a critical response to the risks associated with skyrocketing spending in judicial election campaigns,” said Adam Skaggs, Senior Counsel for the Brennan Center. “Because judicial candidates can finance their campaigns with public funds, they don’t have to dial for dollars from the very lawyers and parties who may appear before them in court,” Skaggs continued. 

West Virginia’s public financing program was passed in the wake of the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co., in which the Court held that a litigant’s extraordinary campaign spending created a constitutionally impermissible risk of judicial bias.

“The United States Supreme Court has recognized that protecting unbiased and independent courts is an interest of the very highest order,” said Matthew Menendez, Counsel at the Brennan Center. “West Virginia’s pilot program is an appropriate method to bolster public trust in the judiciary’s independence and impartiality, and we are glad to work with Mr. Loughry to defend this important law.”

Loughry is the only one of four candidates competing for two Supreme Court seats who opted to participate in West Virginia’s public financing program for judicial elections. Loughry received an initial disbursement of $350,000 for his general election campaign. The law dictates that Loughry is entitled to receive additional funds if any non-participating candidate surpasses a certain spending threshold during the general election season.  According to this rule, Loughry is eligible for approximately $145,000 in additional funds, but the State Election Commission has failed to release the funding. Loughry asked the West Virginia Supreme Court to order state election officials to comply with their legal obligations and release the supplemental funds.

The Brennan Center has jointly released a series of reports on the New Politics of Judicial Elections, as well as a report on the Impact of Citizens United on Judicial Elections.

For more information, or to set up an interview, please contact Madeline Friedman at Madeline.Friedman@nyu.edu or 646-292-8357.