Crime and justice are the more common subjects for novelist John Grisham, but one of his 24 novels, “The Appeal’’ strays into Early Returns territory in its depiction of the corruption and skullduggery surrounding a fictional Supreme Court election in Mississippi. In the story, plaintiffs win a huge verdict against a chemical company, which in turn finances an appellate court candidate who prevails and overturns the award when it reaches the state’s high court.
Analysts have found echoes of the issues of the fictional Mississippi contest in recent judicial elections in West Virginaia, Wisconisn and other states across the country.
In an appearance in Pittsburgh yesterday, Mr. Grisham declared that, “Judicial elections should be outlawed … period.’’
Mr. Grisham was responding to a question about the potential effects of the recent U.S. Supreme Court case, Citizens United, which loosened the restrictions against corporations’ spending money to influence elections. Mr. Grisham noted the potential for abuse in money in politics in general but said that there was no justification for judicial elections to be on the ballot as they are in 38 states, including Pennsylvania.
“It’s possible to buy a Supreme Court seat,’’ he said bluntly. “There are better ways to pick judges.’’
Mr. Grisham was in town to appear at a fund-raising reception for the Innocence Institute at Point Park University. Under the direction of Point Park’s Bill Moushey, a former investigative reporter for the Post-Gazette, students affiliated with the Innocence Project have worked on cases that have led to the reversals of 14 improper convictions.
Mr. Grisham’s only work of non-fiction is “The Innocent Man,” by the story of one wrongfully convicted man. As in his Pittsburgh appearance Wednesday, he has lent his name and time to fund-raising for similar innocence projects across the nation.