A study to appear soon in the Tulane Law Review concluded that campaign donations make a difference to the Louisiana Supreme Court. Justices on the Louisiana Supreme Court vote in favor their own contributors’ position up to 80 percent and 90 percent of the time. The study also showed the more the merrier. Larger contributions had greater benefits. Justice Catherine D. Kimball was 30 percent more likely to vote for a defendant with each additional $1,000 in campaign donations. For Justice John L. Weimer, the effect was 300%.
You can argue that these numbers are not a surprise because financial contributors throw more to judges apply whose those philosophies benefit them. This does make sense. I’m sure the NRA, for example, is not going to send Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton a ton of money. I’m sure Justice Weimer’s contributors knew where he stood on the issues. But judges are viewed differently that politicians and, accordingly, are viewed through a different prism. There is an appearance that something is helpful. Perceptions matter.
The lesson, as always: electing judges is just the wrong way to go.