More and more voters are being subjected to attack ads that accuse judicial candidates of being “soft on crime.” The ads typically focus on a judge’s ruling in a case involving a heinous crime, and they suggest that voters are not safe with the judge on the bench. These ads create political pressure on judges to rule in favor of the state in criminal cases. A new Center for American Progress report concludes that the recent explosion in judicial campaign cash, which funds these attack ads, has led state supreme courts to rule more often against criminal defendants. For example, the 2004 Illinois Supreme Court race broke judicial campaign spending records, and as Illinois voters were bombarded with attack ads, the state’s highest court ruled in favor of the state in 69 percent of its criminal cases—an 18 percent increase over 2003.
Please join the Center for American Progress for a panel discussion on these disturbing trends. The panel includes two former state supreme court justices, Oliver Diaz and Louis Butler, who faced vicious attack ads from groups funded by big business. Stephen Bright of the Southern Center for Human Rights will join the discussion to talk about his experience working to reform our criminal justice system in today’s “tough on crime” political environment.
Lori Lodes, Senior Vice President for Campaigns and Strategies for the Center for American Progress Action Fund, and Senior Vice President at the Center for American Progress
Louis Butler, former Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Partner at Gonzalez, Saggio, & Harlan
Oliver Diaz, former Justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court, Attorney
Stephen Bright, President and Senior Counsel, Southern Center for Human Rights
Liz Seaton, Deputy Executive Director, Justice at Stake
Billy Corriher, Associate Director of Research, Legal Progress