Justice at Stake
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SEPTEMBER 8, 2006
CONTACT: Justice at Stake
James Sample of the Brennan Center for Justice, 212-992-8648
Jesse Rutledge of Justice at Stake, 202-588-9454
Rash of Negative Ads in Court Races Bring “New Politics of Judicial Elections” to Washington State
WASHINGTON - September 8 - Two
national watchdog groups today warned that voters may be more turned off than
properly informed if advertising in the state’s Supreme Court races continues to
degenerate into mudslinging between rival interest groups. A series of
recently unveiled advertising efforts by interest groups include some negative
spots that won’t educate or inform voters, the groups said, but rather serve to
misinform voters about the proper role of the courts.
election approaches, Washington’s judicial candidates should take the high road
and ensure that the races do not degenerate as others have around the country,”
said Deborah Goldberg, director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center
for Justice. “Negative ads from special interest groups should be
denounced by the candidates as contrary to the value of fairness they stand for
as potential judges.”
A series of new ads, both radio and
television, hit the airwaves in recent days across Washington
* A TV ad airing [http://easylink.playstream.com/justiceatstake/stsupct_wa_atla_adorable.rm]
by an independent group identified as “Americans Tired of Lawsuit Abuse” – an
interest group based in Virginia - attacks Chief Justice Gerry Alexander by
saying that “The Andress decision let my son’s killer walk free…..if Justice
Alexander hadn’t voted for this decision, this wouldn’t have happened.”
Four other judges agreed with Alexander’s majority vote.
* A radio ad paid for by the Building Industry Association of
Washington (BIAW) focuses on the age of Chief Justice Alexander: “When it's your
time, you know it. You're tired, you get sloppy, you make mistakes. Take
Chief Justice Gerry Alexander, he's been a judge since Nixon was
president. In recent years, Alexander has not only lost a step or two,
he's done real damage."
* A separate radio ad paid for a group called
“Constitution First” charges that “Marriage is under attack in Washington
state." The ad attacks Justice Tom Chambers for his vote in a recent same-sex
marriage case, even though the same-sex marriage ban was upheld by the
Washington Supreme Court earlier this year.
A 2005 analysis by the
Brennan Center and Justice at Stake shows that 58 percent of the attack ads in
the 2004 state Supreme Court campaigns nationwide were sponsored by outside
groups (31 percent were paid for by a political party, and only 11 percent by
the candidates themselves).
“Attack ads seek to pressure courts to
answer to special interests instead of the law and the constitution,” said Bert
Brandenburg, executive director of Justice at Stake, a nonpartisan national
campaign working to keep American courts fair and impartial.
Interest groups have also been busy trying to corner candidates
through aggressive questionnaires—like that developed by the “Faith and Freedom
Network”— which asked judicial candidates to give their views on three U.S.
Supreme Court decisions and then issued a pass/fail grade based on their
Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center support voter
education efforts such as those developed by the sponsors of
votingforjudges.org, which place a premium on candidate qualifications and
experience rather than their personal views on hot button political or legal
issues they may have to rule on.