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A professor, an economist and a judge sat in a room, crunched the numbers and reached this conclusion: More often than not, judges (in this case federal judges)  vote along party lines.

So say Lee Epstein, a professor at the University of Southern California, William M. Landes, an economist at the University of Chicago, and Richard A. Posner, a federal appeals court judge in Chicago, in their new book, The Behavior of Federal Judges, previewed in today’s New York Times by Adam Liptak

“Justices appointed by Republican presidents vote more conservatively on average than justices appointed by Democratic ones, with the difference being most pronounced in civil rights cases,” they write in the book.

A recent decision by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejecting Michigan’s constitutional ban of affirmative action policies bears out that party allegiance, Liptak notes.  “Every one of the eight judges in the majority was nominated by a Democratic president,” he said. “Every one of the seven judges in dissent was nominated by a Republican president.”

As Liptak adds:

Many judges hate it when news reports note this sort of thing, saying it undermines public trust in the courts by painting them as political actors rather than how they like to see themselves — as disinterested guardians of neutral legal principles.

But there is a lot of evidence that the party of the president who appointed a judge is a significant guide to how that judge will vote on politically charged issues like affirmative action.

True, federal judges are appointed, and perhaps that’s the news peg here, as they’ve long been perceived as above the fray of electoral posturing and politicking.

Is it any different in places where judges are elected?  Nobody’s run the numbers yet,  but one thing’s likely.  Judges who campaign are well-versed in the partisan give-and-take.

 

 

 

 

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If you get a chance, be sure to read Fannie Florio’s column in the Charlotte Observer in which she laments the the sad state of our politics and the depths to which things have fallen in the post-Citizens United world.

Lest you think, however, that reading it will simply be a depressing bummer, know that it actually does feature an upbeat conclusion. Here’s a sneak preview: Read More

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The outside spending spree on the race for a seat on North Carolina’s Supreme Court continues to set records. As Raleigh’s News & Observer reported this morning, a conservative group spent $1.3 million on one TV ad alone.

Interestingly, the spree has given rise to competing views from thoughtful sources as to what, if anything, we should do about all this.

The Charlotte Observer says that enough is enough:   Read More

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It’s been a busy few weeks for the N.C. Judicial Coalition, the super-PAC formed to support the re-election of Justice Paul Newby to the state Supreme Court.

In its latest IRS filing, the group reported having received only $35,100 in contributions through the end of September 2012, with $25,000 of that coming from conservative businessman Bob Luddy, president of Captive-Aire Systems in Raleigh.

But the cash poured in early October, as the group spent nearly $400,000 in television ad buys for commercials to run through late October, according to filings with the Federal Communications Commission.

Those buys include the following:

WTVD (Durham) — $163,495

WNCN (Raleigh) — $21,390

WRAZ (Raleigh) — $18,940

WFMY (Greensboro) — $45,150

WXII (Winston-Salem) — $21,275

WLOS (Asheville) — $36,875

WBTV (Charlotte) — $66,140

WCCB (Charlotte) — $15,705

Additional ad buys for stations like WRAL (Raleigh) and WCNC (Charlotte), as well as for stations on the coast, may have been made or are pending, as the FCC filings show folders open for NC Judicial Coalition and N.C. Supreme Court campaign buys, but those folders were empty at press time. Read More

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Here’s an interesting twist to the growing perception that partisanship and private money are creeping into judicial elections: What happens when elected judges are asked to interpret campaign finance rules that have governed their own campaigns?

That’s what’s playing out in a case argued yesterday before a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals involving provisions of the state’s “stand by your ad” law. That law requires candidates or committees to disclose who’s paid for television ads they run.

After the 2010 election, the Friends of Joe Sam Queen — the committee for the Democratic candidate running for the 47th Senate District seat that year — sued his challenger Ralph Hise’s committee and the Republican Executive Committee for violations of that law.

Hise went on to win that seat, and is now seeking re-election. Joe Sam Queen is running for a House seat this year.

In the case before the court, Queen claimed that the Republicans paid for Hise ads but didn’t disclose that, allowing the ads to air instead with the statement “paid for by Ralph Hise for Senate.”

His committee wants to collect the nearly $250,000 Hise paid for those ads as damages, as permitted under the “stand by your ad” law.

But the Hise committee said he paid for the ads by virtue of an account the Republicans had set up with the campaign’s media company, American Media, for the benefit of candidates. The party deposited funds into that account, but only after Hise approved an ad could American Media draw down on that account to pay for air time and expenses. Read More