Campaign Donations to U.S. Judges

1 Oct ’06

In the NYT today, the three first paragraphs of a piece that would astound the average Canadian:

In the fall of 2004, Terrence O’Donnell, an affable judge with the placid good looks of a small-market news anchor, was running hard to keep his seat on the Ohio Supreme Court. He was also considering two important class-action lawsuits that had been argued many months before.

In the weeks before the election, Justice O’Donnell’s campaign accepted thousands of dollars from the political action committees of three companies that were defendants in the suits. Two of the cases dealt with defective cars, and one involved a toxic substance. Weeks after winning his race, Justice O’Donnell joined majorities that handed the three companies significant victories.

Justice O’Donnell’s conduct was unexceptional. In one of the cases, every justice in the 4-to-3 majority had taken money from affiliates of the companies. None of the dissenters had done so, but they had accepted contributions from lawyers for the plaintiffs.

I’m always surprised by accounts of how politicized the U.S judiciary is, but this one pretty much takes the cake.

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