The nature of judicial elections in this country is fundamentally
changing. Never before has so much corporate money been dumped into
the states for the purpose of ensuring the election of pro-industry
judges and defeating judges who have voted to strike down tort reforms--laws
that limit or immunize corporations from liability and make it more
difficult or impossible for injured consumers to go to court.
This election season, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent an unprecedented
$1 million in an advertising blitz sponsored by the Institute for
Legal Reform--the Chamber's tort reform wing. Jim Wootton, head
of the Institute, says the Chamber specifically targeted states
where judges may be called upon to rule on the constitutionality
of tort restrictions.
For the Chamber, the results were mixed. Initial problems for the
group emerged even before Election Day, when a Mississippi federal
court agreed with state officials that the Chamber's failure to
file campaign finance reports for its "issue ads" violated election
laws. Two of the Chamber's four endorsed judicial candidates were
re-elected. But another--the state chief justice--was defeated,
while the fourth faces a runoff election.