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.

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