The Center for Public Integrity’s Dec. 4 study titled “Justice Obscured” argues that many state courts, including those in Pennsylvania, do not adequately track and disclose gifts to state court judges. It suggests that too many cases are heard by judges who may have a conflict of interest.
Unfortunately, in states like Pennsylvania that elect judges, the risk of conflict of interest is multiplied by the need for judges to actively raise money from parties who appear before them. Spending on state high court races in the last election cycle topped $56 million, and spending on judicial campaign TV ads reached a record $33.7 million. In Pennsylvania, Supreme Court justices have raised more than $21.9 million since 2000.
When judicial elections force judges to raise millions from parties that appear before them, it’s no wonder that 87 percent of Americans fear that justice is for sale. Every state that elects judges needs to take steps to insulate judges from the escalating pressures of money and politics.
Americans want judges to be fair and impartial, and accountable to the law and the constitution — not special interests and political partisans.
Justice at Stake