Big corporations have ridden this election’s Super PAC wave, and Americans are starting to see that phenomenon trickle down to the state judiciary level, according to a report released by the Center for American Progress on Tuesday.
Thirty nine states elect their Supreme Court justices, which allows corporations to have a big impact on the outcome of the race by financing campaigns, the report stated.
“Money talks,” said Justice James Nelson of the Mississippi Supreme Court at a hearing entitled “How Big Business Is Taking Over the Courts” held at the Center for American Progress on Tuesday.
These campaign donations have a greater impact in judicial races than presidential ones, said Oliver Diaz, former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice.
“In a judicial race campaign judges are not known, so the opportunity there is to define that judge,” he said.
Since the Citizens United decision in 2010 the public and Supreme Court justices have only become more concerned about whether a person will ever be able to get a fair trial in court. Three-quarters of Americans believe that campaign financing impacts the decisions made in state courts and half of state Supreme Court justices believe the same, Diaz said.
He suggested that the United States adopt the model used by the United Kingdom that requires corporate shareholders to vote on campaign donations.
Nelson asked states to adopt greater transparency, beef up their disclosure laws and to reveal information about campaign donations in the hopes that their efforts might preserve state courts as the last vestige of judicial independence.
“Get the facts out, get the truth out, make it prominent,” he said.