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Reformers Hope High Court Decision Will Kill Judicial Elections

Publication Date: 
February 01, 2010
Tony Mauro

Professor Pamela Karlan spoke at a Georgetown University Law Center conference on judicial elections that also included two SLS alumnae--retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, and Rebecca Kourlis, former Colorado Supreme Court justice and executive director of the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System at the University of Denver. Tony Mauro reports:

For years now, judicial reform groups have more or less resigned themselves to the reality that the public likes to elect its state judges and will fight any effort to appoint them instead.

The U.S. Supreme Court's Jan. 21 decision in Citizens United v. FEC may have altered that sober truth -- or at least has given reformers a glimmer of hope that it might. By supersizing possible corporate domination of judicial elections, the thinking goes, the Supreme Court's decision may finally make the public see how unseemly the elections are -- and move toward merit-based selection as an alternative.


But Stanford Law School professor Pamela Karlan, also speaking at the Georgetown event, said she was "quite pessimistic" about anything good coming out of Citizens United. Even though the public worries about the influence of campaign money on judges, she said, "They want to elect their judges."