Writing in the Wall Street Journal in November of 2007, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said, “Judicial elections, which occur in some form in 39 states, are receiving growing attention from those who seek to influence them. In fact, motivated interest groups are pouring money into judicial elections in record amounts.”
Last year, candidates for one Wisconsin Supreme Court seat spent $6 million. Estimates run as high as $20 million this year for candidates running for chief justice of Michigan’s Supreme Court.
As Sandra Day O’Connor warned, “These efforts threaten the integrity of judicial selection and compromise public perception of judicial decisions.”
In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that voters here in Minnesota were free to elect judges just like we elect legislators and governors. In other words, party endorsements, special-interest financing, attack ads and partisan ideology are now permissible.
In an attempt to avoid all of the above, Minnesota formed a bipartisan panel headed by a former GOP governor. The panel came up with a set of recommendations designed to avoid the kind of judicial litmus tests that we’ve seen at the federal level. The proposal faces stiff opposition from interest groups who seem intent on continuing the erosion of confidence we’ve experienced in our justice system and in our government in the last eight years.
Whether it’s the U.S. Attorney General’s Office or the courts, the role of the judiciary is to uphold the rule of law and not the ideology of one political party.