State Supreme Court campaigns have become proxy wars between big business and plaintiff's lawyers, especially in Pa, which has lately led the nation in their campaign spending. The findings were highlighted in a new report from the Brennan Center for Juctice at New York University.
The report found that from 2000 to 2009, fund-raising by candidates for state Supreme Court seats across the country had more than doubled from the previous decade, from $83.3 million to $207 million.
In that same period, candidates in Pennsylvania raised around $20 million, second only to Alabama, where spending on Supreme Court elections was more than $40 million, the result of an early and ongoing battle between trial lawyers and business groups.
But in the 2007 and 2008 Supreme Court election cycle, Pennsylvania far outpaced other states. Total spending in the state during that period was $10.3 million, the study said. The second-highest-ranking state was Wisconsin, where spending by candidates and others reached $8.5 million, followed by Alabama at $5.4 million.
"This is not a record we should be proud of," said Lynn A. Marks, executive director of Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, an advocacy group pushing to replace the current system of judicial elections with appointed judges. "Think of yourself in a court wondering whether one of the lawyers made a contribution to one of the judges. That is not what one should be focusing on when one comes before a court."