"...Correspondent Bill Moyers, who happens to be president of a foundation
trying to change campaign-finance laws, focuses on Pennsylvania, Louisiana and
Texas, first pointing out how ridiculously expensive it is for candidates to
campaign in these states, and then zeroing in on cases that hinged on the
question of judicial integrity in the wake of vigorous campaign support by
Whether or not you think Moyers has a conflict of interest--I think he
does--'Justice for Sale' fires a stunning warning shot: Although the framers of
the Constitution didn't picture it this way, 39 states now elect judges at one
level or another. In some places, it's still a courtly pursuit where the
candidates spend very little money trying to get elected. But in others, it
has gotten uglier than AM talk radio.
In terms of cost, U.S. Suprme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy assesses the
problem articulately: 'If there is the perception or the reality that courts
are influenced in their decisions based upon campaign funding sources, we will
have a crisis of legitimacy, a crisis of belief, a crisis of confidence.'
But former Texas Supreme Court Judge Bob Gammage, who resigned the bench rather
than be politicized, says it like a Texan: 'If you don't dance with them that
brung you, you may not be there for the next dance.'"
"...Tuesday's episode of 'Frontline' ... a thoroughly enlightening view of
Louisiana from the outside looking in.
In 'Justice for Sale,' Bill Moyers examines the widespread but problematic
practice of electing rather than appointing state judges. And he finds the
perfect illustration of its potential pitfalls in Louisiana. Specifically, in
the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic's successful 1997 legal fight against the
proposed Shintech chemical plant near Convent, LA, and Gov. Mike Foster's
subsequent fight against Tulane University.
Locals may have viewed the story as Politics As Usual: Popular governor uses
the power of the office to exact his revenge on a political nemesis.
But Moyers' take on the story is fascinatingly fresh in the context of his
overarching argument that the judicial process is tainted by judges forced to
politick for their jobs.
...Like his last PBS special on campaign finance reform, this one features not
a single dissenting voice. If 39 states have decided judges should be elected,
is there not one person in one of those states able to articulate why voting
for judges is preferable to appointing them?
Not here. Moyers makes a compelling case against states that force judges to
wage popularity campaigns. But he leaves reasonable doubt as to whether we've
heard both sides."
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